Redesign and optimization of the milk powder production chain

The food sector is responsible for large energy consumptions, mainly caused by the use of thermal processes. Milk powder production involves many thermal processes, making it highly energy consuming. The past decades the current production process is optimized to a high extend. The EU goals, however, demand for a further improvement of environmental impact. Redesigning the milk powder production chain is necessary to make a next step forward in energy reduction as well as environmental impact. Introduction of new technologies will be the key. Optimization of single process units will have an influence on up- and downstream process units. Therefore it is important to take the whole production chain into account. The goal is to design an optimization routine which takes energy and water consumption, LCA aspects, and economical aspects into account, resulting in a sustainable milk powder production chain.

Highlight of the past year

After describing and modeling the state-of-the-art in milk powder production in the first year, we continued in the second year with the innovative technologies. This information resulted in a review manuscript describing the need for development of new technologies and their potential. Figure 1 shows the possible energy reduction when replacing current concentrating and drying process by new ones. Important is the surplus heat created by using monodisperse drying with air recycling after dehumidification by either zeolites or a membrane contactor. By applying pinch technology to identify the possibilities for heat recovery and subsequent optimization of the operational conditions it was proved that the surplus heat reused in the system. With these results the energy consumption in milk powder production can at least be halved. Results were presented at the EFFoST conference in Athens.

Type of student projects envisioned

Modeling will be the core of student projects. Examples could be development of in depth mechanism models of the innovative technologies, or more broth chain analysis. Main focus is on energy and sustainability evaluation in general, which involves both environmental and economic aspects.