Milk Prism: membrane technology to separate milk into extremely pure product streams
Milk components have nutritional and functional values and sometimes even specific health-promoting properties. How can we ensure that they retain as much of their basic natural characteristics as possible during the processing of milk? Thanks to new membrane technologies developed by FrieslandCampina, we can now achieve this. We refer to these technologies as ‘Milk Prism’.
Milk processing has always been geared towards making key products in large quantities. Think, for example, of the combination of skimmed milk powder and cream/butter, or cheese, whey and cream/butter. It takes 10 kilogrammes of milk to make a single kilogramme of cheese. The remaining nine kilos consist of whey, a liquid rich in nutrients which is used in infant and toddler nutrition and medical food. These areas of application offer many new opportunities for milk and milk ingredients.
A new starting point
However, might it not be better to choose a different starting point for milk processing? For example, why not concentrate on the milk ingredients that are needed for a specific application, such as casein for cheese production and whey proteins for infant and toddler nutrition? After all, if those specific components are what help to improve cheese preparation or the production of baby food, the emphasis should surely lie on them. That was the argument put forward by researchers at FrieslandCampina. Since 2005, they have been developing a number of technological options for separating milk in a different way.
Exceptionally pure, high quality product streams
FrieslandCampina eventually came up with Milk Prism, a technology which is designed to separate milk into exceptionally pure, high quality product streams. The process begins by removing the cream from milk. The milk fat is then processed into butter and cheese, leaving behind skimmed milk. This milk is then passed through a series of membranes, which gently separates it into different components. The process itself is simple: components that are smaller than the pores in the membrane pass through it. Components that are bigger than these pores remain inside the membrane, resulting in separation. Since bacteria are larger than the micro-particles we are ultimately interested in, they will remain behind during the initial purification stage and the liquid will become increasingly clear. The mixture is thus gradually separated into casein, whey proteins and lactose. By isolating the proteins and other components directly at source using gentle separation techniques, we can ensure that these components retain as much as possible of their natural essential bioactivity.
When it was first developed, the concept wasn’t ready for immediate use. First we had to build a test installation in a production plant, and at the end of 2010 a Milk Prism installation was eventually taken into use at the production plant in Lochem (the Netherlands). The name ‘Milk Prism’ refers to the rich spectrum of ingredients that naturally occur in milk.
The production process yields a variety of valuable product streams which can be used in various applications ranging from infant and toddler nutrition to ingredients for day-to-day foods. Essentially, we supply product streams that buyers of our ingredients can use. Cooperation between the FrieslandCampina process technologists and our customers is therefore essential.