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Dairy focused Membrane Processing

Physically separating and selectively concentrating milk components.

Membrane filtration refers to a range of separation technologies used by dairy processors to physically separate and selectively concentrate milk components.

Concentrate milk components include fat globules, caseins, whey proteins, lactose and milk minerals and may also be used for removal of bacteria and bacterial spores, de-fatting of milk and whey, partial demineralisation, as well as concentration of dry matter and recovery of water from product streams.  

Membrane types differ by the material of their fabrication and design (e.g. tubular ceramic or spiral wound polymeric) and on their ability to partition components based on molecular weight cut off (MWCO) or pore size. The most frequently used techniques for membrane processing in the dairy sector include

  • Microfiltration (MF) at pore size 0.08-2 µm used to reduce bacterial numbers and remove spores in cheese milk, or for selective concentration of micellar casein by fractionation of serum proteins and other soluble components
  • Ultrafiltration (UF) a low pressure (<1MPa) process with a  MWCO range of 1-500 kDa, but frequently using 10 kDa such as in the manufacture of milk protein and whey protein fractions, where smaller molecular weight components such as lactose, non-protein nitrogen and soluble minerals selectively permeate through the membrane as a co-product stream to the concentrated retentate
  • Removal of water by Reverse Osmosis (RO) with a MWCO of <150 Da and a pressure of ~ 3 MPa achieving ~ 98 % rejection of NaCl
  • Or by Nanofiltration (NF) with a MWCO of 150-300 Da and a pressure of 2-2.5 MPa and rejection rates of ~ 40-60% for NaCl albeit with a partial depletion or partition of certain ionic species predominantly Na+ , Cl- and K+ during milk concentration. 

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