One-of-a-kind pilot equipment is providing Arla Foods Ingredients with new know-how invaluable to the commercial processing of lactose. The long-term gain will be lactose production with a higher yield and superior purity.
Anders Dalberg, food scientist in Arla Foods Ingredients R&D, has worked closely with the equipment supplier to customise pilot-scale apparatus to the needs of the crystallisation step in lactose production. Using the so-called lab crystalliser, it is possible to simulate and monitor lactose crystallisation, the key process where the size and structure of the crystals formed determine the yield and quality of the final lactose. Initial analyses of whey permeate, the raw material for lactose, provide the basis for mapping the influence of variations in permeate composition on lactose crystallisation.
The key to fine-tuning quality
“By expanding our knowledge in this way, we gain an improved understanding of the parameters we can adjust in order to optimise lactose yield and quality,” says Dalberg. “Eventually, we will be able to provide customers with even better, purer products for use in infant nutrition, bakery, confectionery and other products.”
All test data, including crystal size and structure, pH, viscosity and processing conditions, is recorded in an electronic database. Due to the small capacity of the lab crystalliser at just two litres per batch, test findings are reconfirmed on 500-litre pilot equipment prior to full-scale trials.
Support for process optimisation
Over the past year, model test results have contributed to process optimisation at Arla Foods Ingredients’ plants in Denmark and Argentina. Similarly, they have supported the choice of processing equipment for the new ArNoCo GmbH & Co. facility in North Germany, part of the joint venture agreement with German dairy company DMK.
Since developing the customised lab crystalliser in collaboration with Arla Foods Ingredients, the equipment supplier has received a number of enquiries from other ingredient manufacturers, particularly within starch and sugar processing, interested in purchasing a similar pilot-scale setup.