More Energy-Efficient Emulsion Production

June 11, 2014
Rotating membrane emulsification could be 90 percent more energy efficient than traditional processes.

A more energy efficient process for emulsion production, with applications in the food industry and beyond, has been developed by a postdoctoral student in England.

David Lloyd’s research explores rotating membrane emulsification (RME) to produce oil-in-water emulsions. RME is an optimization of the membrane emulsification process, where droplets are grown individually over time to create a uniform structure across the mixture.

Because the droplets are formed in a different way to the more traditional emulsification processes, for small scale production, RME is shown to be up to 90 percent more energy efficient. This less energy intensive emulsification process could deliver a significant reduction in manufacturing costs.

The structure of many food products is emulsion-based, and it is the structure that affects mouthfeel, flavor and texture, and even shelf-life. A uniform structure across the mixture means household foods such as milk, mayonnaise and salad dressing are of a high quality.

Emulsions are typically manufactured by mechanically breaking down droplets, for example through high shear mixing or sonication. A surfactant is added to prevent the smaller droplets from re-coalescing. Large scale processes are very energy intensive.

“David’s work contributes to a better understanding of the important process mechanisms that determine emulsion microstructure using low energy rotating membrane technology," said Professor Dietrich Knorr, section chair at the eighth European Workshop on Food and Technology, presented in cooperation with the European Federation of Food Science and Technology. The workshop took place in April at the German Institute of Food Technologies. “If this technology can be applied at a large scale, and compete with the other established technologies, it could have a major impact on the food industry.”

Lloyd, an EngD student from the University of Birmingham, UK, won the Julius Maggi Research Award from the European Federation of Chemical Engineering.

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