Research: Researchers develop a mathematical ultrafiltration membrane model for whey separation process

14 March 2017

Innovation is an important part of FrieslandCampina’s route2020 strategy for sustainable growth and value creation. The FrieslandCampina innovation and R&D projects often have interesting results. For example research on membrane technology as presented in the article below.

Ultrafiltration membranes

In the dairy industry, it is estimated that 75 percent of the total ultrafiltration membranes are used to fractionate the whey proteins. Using filtration, proteins are separated from the whey (combined with e.g. spray drying). One of the major problems encountered when using filtration is the fact that the membranes used, get ‘clogged’ and the performance of the filter membrane drops significantly. Cleaning takes time and money, so there’s a huge saving potential if the filters can be tuned for less performance deterioration.

Mathematical models in the form of distributed parameters systems provide detailed knowledge which could be very useful especially in the design of new membrane processes.

Using models like the one described in the research article, it is possible to improve the performance of the membranes used in the production processes of companies like FrieslandCampina.


  • A control-oriented dynamic model for an ultrafiltration membrane unit is proposed.
  • Parameter estimation is done using the experimental data from a whey processing plant.
  • The model describes membrane’s performance deterioration with the resistance concept.
  • The dynamic model is used for the study of optimal operation strategies.


In this paper, we present a control relevant rigorous dynamic model for an ultrafiltration membrane unit in a whey separation process. The model consists of a set of differential algebraic equations and is developed for online model-based applications such as model-based control and process monitoring. In this model, membrane resistance concept is adjusted to describe the membrane fouling. Based on the observations regarding the permeate flux, we propose a membrane resistance expression consisting of static and dynamic resistances. The empirical expressions for the membrane resistances are identified by solving a parameter estimation problem. The dynamic model is investigated for its predictive capabilities and is further utilised for the study of optimal operation strategies.


M. Bahadır Saltıka
Leyla Özkana
Marc Jacobsb
Albert van der Padtb,c

a Eindhoven University of Technology, Eindhoven 5612 AJ, The Netherlands
b FrieslandCampina, Amersfoort 3818 LE, The Netherlands
c Wageningen University, Wageningen 6708 PB, The Netherlands


Keywords: ultrafiltration, dynamic model, whey separation, membrane fouling