Scaling up the lab - Emulsions

Hi everyone. I currently can make about 10 liters of a hot process emulsion (specifically, hair conditioners) at a time by utilizing 3 hot plates and large beakers. I'm outgrowing this batch size and am curious about the type of equipment to make larger batches. What type of equipment does a bigger lab use to heat up each phase adequately and then combine them? 


  • This may depend on how sophisticated you want to be, your facilities, and the size of your investment. 

    You can purchase kettles or small tanks if you have a place that has a boiler and heating system.  I have seen companies use large cooking pots as tanks with hand held and detachable mixers.  Heating is down on hot places or an electric heater.  Tanks may come with and without mixers (centerpole and side sweep) . 

    If you are making thick products like the conditioner I would recommend something with a side sweep.  Manual sweeping is a pain.  I hope this helps.
  • Thank you! This gives me a great place to start.
  • MaxMax Member
    it all comes to the $.

    a 200L drum, second hand will cost you $10, you get a drill and a paddle and you are in business I guess. To heat a you can get 2 or 3 heating units used for home brew... they can heat your mix to 40 plus degrees...

  • em88em88 Member
    You are already at the edge of lab scale (10 L)
    You can go to 50 L batches, but this is not lab scale anymore. 
  • I personally use tanks from
    The owners are great to work with.
    Their bottling tanks are what I use for my company and they come in a wide range of sizes. All water jacketed for even heating. 
  • @Dirtnap1 thanks for the link- do you also use the attachment for creaming honey for emulsification or stirring? @Max any brand of home brew heater you use in particular?
  • I do use the slow mixer to keep things from settling. But I use another blender to disperse and help emulsify first. Then when things are liquid enough, we use the slow speed to keep things mixed and to help any trapped air bubbles to escape. 
  • Thanks @Dirtnap1 never thought to look to honey industry for equipment!
  • Thank you! I think I first need to look into options to run boiling water straight from a filter. I've used 5-gallon jugs of distilled water until now, then heated them in the beakers on the hot plates. It takes far too long.
  • BelassiBelassi Member, PCF student
    I find the best way of heating water is to use an industrial size microwave oven.
    Cosmetic Brand Creation. Concept to name to IMPI search to logo and brand registration. In-house graphic design inc. Pantone specs. Cosmetic label and box design & graphics.
  • A simple 3-5gal double boiler would work as well.
  • Maybe something like this would be a good step up There's actually a restaurant supply store near my warehouse, so I'll go by and check out what they've got. 
  • MaxMax Member
    @Biochemist not really, any home brew store will have some, they look like a belt that goes around the drum. 

  • @Dirtnap1 I picked up a 3 gallon stainless steel double boiler from the restaurant supply store to try out. Thanks for the suggestion!
  • And thank you to everyone who has helped so far. I run small batches of my products until I can't keep up anymore, and then they go to a local manufacturer to be made in larger quantities. I don't want to run a full sized lab, but for the products that don't have as high of a turn over, manufacturing 2,000 of them doesn't make any sense. Stepping stones :)
  • @kavellahaircare thanks for the thread. What are you using to emulsify / mix your products? 
  • Sometimes a hand stick blender, sometimes a free standing mixer I purchased on eBay. It was supposed to mix up to 20 liters but that only works for purely aqueous formulas or I have to constantly side sweep. 
  • Thanks, I’m doing the same and have also used a drill and paint stirrers. Still trying to get it right.
  • For the tank we have purchased these:

    Mixing is done with hand held Waring WSB65CK 18"  Heavy Duty Immersion Blender

    Dr. Mike Thair
    Cofounder & Chief Formulator
    Indochine Natural
  • Thanks @mikethair wow there are some big blenders out there! Do you have any tips for slow stirring of emulsions during cool down in one of those tanks?
  • This one looks good! Thank you for the suggestion! And I could use the 3 gallon double boiler for heating the oil phases since they're smaller. 
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