Debolina wins best research paper award


Spray-drying methods for milk based products such as baby formula or other powdered milks could be improved according to chemical engineers at the University of Sydney who have analysed current processes.

Postdoctoral Research Associate  Debolina Das whose research   titled  Solid-Phase Cystallisation of spray-dried glucose powders: a perspective and comparison with lactose and sucrose  won Best Research Paper Award at the annual Chemeca Conference says her   project   investigated the tendency of spray-dried glucose based powders to crystalize over time.

The results of Debolina’s analysis could mean better scale-up and prediction of crystal growth in commercially produced lactose based powder products.

“Spray-drying is a method of producing a dry powder from a liquid or slurry by rapidly drying with a hot gas,” explains Debolina.

“All spray dryers use some type of  atomizer  or  spray nozzle  to disperse the liquid or slurry into a controlled drop size spray,” she says.

“We compared molecular dynamic simulations with empirical theory and now have a new view on the ”˜activated-rate one’,   or put simply the chemical reactions involved in the spraying-drying process of glucose powders, ” says Debolina.

Debolina’s Ph.D. supervisor Professor Tim Langrish,  Head of the  School of Chemical and Bimolecular Engineering,  says Debolina’s work will assist in the engineering of new combined approaches to controlling the particle properties of sprayed-dried glucose products.


Professor Langrish, a world leader in drying technologies explains the current dilemma:


“At the moment, the spray-drying methods used often result in powder  agglomeration  and cakingthat may  cause  the powder  to degrade quickly.


“Imagine the powder as a bowl of tangled spaghetti, obviously there will be gaps in the mass. These gaps  allow the powder to absorb moisture, allowing bacteria to grow.


“If we can develop improved spraying methods we can reduce stickiness, improve the yield from processing and to improve the properties in storage and use.

“This is significant for products such as powdered milk which Australia produces and distributes globally,” states Professor Langrish.

According to Professor Langrish, Australia  is a trusted source of milk powder with up to 80 per cent of our supplies exported.

“Milk powder is added to liquid milk products, particularly in tropical climates where fresh milk supplies are not available.   It is also used confectionery and milk chocolates, processed meats, ready-to-cook meals, baby foods, ice-cream, yogurt, health foods and reduced-fat milks, ” he says.


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