What is whey?
Whey is a by-product of the dairy industry yielded from cheese production. For many years, whey was considered insignificant and was disposed of as waste. In some cases, they are used as animal feed. Whey is one of the two proteins in milk (the other being casein). In their original form, the two milk proteins remain intermixed. However, whey can be isolated from casein during the cheesemaking process.
Over recent years, studies have been conducted suggesting the nutritional importance of whey. Its main component (whey protein) has been proven to have antimicrobial, antiviral and antioxidant properties. It can also offer protection against cancer and heart diseases, while also enhancing immune response.
Whey, however, poses major disposal and pollution problem for the dairy industry. Given that 145 million tonnes of whey are produced annually and its ever-growing demand, it is important to look at new ways of utilising and processing whey.
Applications of whey
Whey is an important byproduct of the dairy industry, with almost every component having either nutritional or health-improving properties. Each of these components can be isolated using modern industrial processes. Simple whey powder, from which only water has been removed, can provide dairy flavour in bakery and snack applications, and may also be used in replacement to skim milk in formulations. Whey can also be demineralized for its use in infant formulas with finely controlled mineral compositions. Whey proteins may be concentrated using separation technologies such as membrane filtration, to obtain whey protein concentrates or whey protein isolates that are used in a multitude of high-protein products. Individual whey proteins, such as the immune-stimulating protein lactoferrin, lactoperoxidase and bovine serum albumin, can be isolated and purified using a combination of membrane filtration and chromatography.
Advances in membrane filtration and chromatography have underpinned economically viable commercial processes for the fractionation of whey into highly purified protein and lactose products that allow end-users to take advantage of the various functional properties of individual whey components. This is a trend that is expected to continue as research discovers new bioactive properties and consumers become more educated about the nutritional value of whey.
Why use membrane technology?
Membrane separation technology provides a new method for ensuring the quality of dairy products, product development, improving the efficiency of dairy enterprises, and increasing profits. It has become a powerful processing method to ensure the safety of dairy products without destroying the nutritional content of dairy products.
At present, in the recovery of whey protein, the commonly used process is to use ultrafiltration to concentrate and separate the whey. Whey protein powder with a protein content of 35% to 85% can be obtained through ultrafiltration separation. With the help of the full filtration of the continuous dilution of the concentrated phase, a whey protein powder with higher protein content can be obtained. In addition, the introduction of ultrafiltration and the combined reverse osmosis technology can remove lactose and ash from the membrane permeate while concentrating the whey protein. This greatly expands the application range of dry whey.
Nanofiltration (NF) is an alternative for partial demineralization of whey. NF-membranes which are suitable for dairy applications have a high permeability for (monovalent) salts (NaCl, KCl) and very low permeability for organic compounds (lactose, proteins, urea). The use of NF has the advantage of simultaneous concentration and demineralization of whey.
Why choose Nilsan?
Nilsan’s state-of-the-art membrane systems have helped businesses across industries. Here’s how your business can benefit from our solution:
- Energy-efficient process
- Low maintenance and operating costs
- Versatile systems – can be used for multiple products
- Inbuilt CIP/SIP capabilities
- Sanitary System design system
- No effluent discharge
- Skid-mounted compact systems & less footprint.
- Attractive CapEx and OpEx over conventional separation/purification methods
- Wide range of membranes – In MF, UF, NF, RO – in different MOC, and in different module designs to meet specific processes.
- 30+ years of expertise