Reverse osmosis (RO) can be used to concentrate whole milk to levels of 25–30% total solids (TS). This corresponds to a volume concentration factor of 2-2.5.
It also preserves the functioning of proteins and eliminates the cooked flavour of the product, by avoiding the phase change caused by evaporation. Whole milk is normally processed at about 45°F. The integrity of the fat molecules is maintained by properly designed and run systems. By doing this, the rancidity brought on by broken or ruptured fat molecules is avoided.
Now, let’s understand how RO is used in skimmed milk production facilities!
What is reverse osmosis? What is the process of reverse osmosis?
The term "RO" or reverse osmosis refers to a pressure-driven membrane separation process, in which various components of a fluid mixture are separated using a membrane. Pore diameters in RO membranes are smaller than 0.001 micron. Based on molecular size and chemical interactions between the fluid components, in contact with the membrane and the membrane itself, separation takes place.
In this procedure, salts and colloidal particles are retained while pressure is applied to force water molecules through membrane pores, within the operating pressure ranges from 450 to 600 psi. The quality of the permeate produced by RO systems relies on the feed's composition, quality, and concentration.
Additionally, the amount of components in the permeate increases with increasing TS. Organic solids will typically be present in RO permeate in small but quantifiable levels. Operating parameters such as feed flow rate, pressure, temperature, pH, microbiological quality of feed stream, feed concentration, and fouling characteristics of the membrane for different components, have a significant impact on the process performance.
What is the Use of reverse osmosis in skim milk production?
The capacity of a skim milk evaporation plant can be increased effectively and economically, by concentrating buttermilk using cold reverse osmosis (RO). Cold milk experience at MSS has demonstrated that it is theoretically possible to pre-concentrate raw, whole milk that is 45°F or colder, without causing significant fat degradation, severe fouling, or rancidity.
Without expanding the capacity of the separator or pasteurizer, adding a cold whole milk RO can boost plant capacity by up to 25%. Even though a cold whole milk RO costs a little more than a warm skim RO, the money saved by not upgrading the pasteurizer and not expanding the separation capacity, results in a lower overall investment. In general, membranes run colder and with lower concentrations last longer. The cold RO permeate can be used successfully for energy-saving tasks, like pre-cooling cream.
Reverse osmosis preserves the functioning of proteins and eliminates the cooked flavour of the product, by avoiding the phase change caused by evaporation. Skim milk is typically processed at a temperature between 45°F and 120°F. Concentrated skim milk can be used for a variety of purposes, including fortification, enhanced production capacity, and reduced volume for shipping.
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