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Spray drying



Spray drying is a commonly used method of drying a liquid feed through a hot gas. Typically, this hot gas is air but sensitive materials such as pharmaceuticals, and solvents like ethanol require oxygen-free drying and nitrogen gas is used instead. The liquid feed varies depending on the material being dried and is not limited to food or pharmaceutical products, and may be a solution, colloid or suspension. This process of drying is a one step rapid process and eliminates additional processing.

Additional recommended knowledge

The liquid feed is pumped through an atomiser device that produces fine droplets into the main drying chamber. Atomisers vary with rotary, single fluid, two-fluid, and ultra-sonic designs. These different styles have different advantages and disadvantages depending on the application of the spray drying required.

The hot drying gas can be passed as a co-current or counter-current flow to the atomiser direction. The co-current flow enables the particles to have a lower residence time within the system and the particle separator (typically a cyclone device) operates more efficiently. The counter-current flow method enables a greater residence time of the particles in the chamber and usually is paired with a fluidised bed system.

Spray drying often is used as an encapsulation technique by the food and pharmaceutical industries. A substance to be encapsulated (the load) and an amphipathic carrier (usually some sort of modified starch) are homogenized as a suspension in water (the slurry). The slurry is then fed into a spray drier, usually a tower heated to temperatures well over the boiling point of water.

As the slurry enters the tower, it is atomized. Partly because of the high surface tension of water and partly because of the hydrophobic/hydrophilic interactions between the amphipathic carrier, the water, and the load, the atomized slurry forms micelles. The small size of the drops (averaging 100 micrometers in diameter) results in a relatively large surface area which dries quickly. As the water dries, the carrier forms a hardened shell around the load.

Load loss is usually a function of molecular weight. That is, lighter molecules tend to boil off in larger quantities at the processing temperatures. Loss is minimized industrially by spraying into taller towers. A larger volume of air has a lower average humidity as the process proceeds. By the osmosis principle, water will be encouraged by its difference in fugacities in the vapor and liquid phases to leave the micelles and enter the air. Therefore, the same percentage of water can be dried out of the particles at lower temperatures if larger towers are used.

The application of the spray drying encapsulation technique is to prepare "dehydrated" powders of substances which do not have any water to dehydrate. For example, instant drink mixes are spray dries of the various chemicals which make up the beverage. The technique was once used to remove water from food products; for instance, in the preparation of dehydrated milk. Because the milk was not being encapsulated and because spray drying causes thermal degradation, milk dehydration and similar processes have been replaced by other dehydration techniques. Skim milk powders are still widely produced using spray drying technology around the world, typically at high solids concentration for maximum drying efficiency. Thermal degradation of products can be overcome by using lower operating temperatures and larger chamber sizes for increased residence times.

Sources

  • Nutritional evaluation of food processing second edition (1975), Robert S. Harris, Ph.D. and Endel Karmas Ph.D. (eds)

Keey, R.B., (1992). Drying of Loose and Particulate Materials, 1st, (pp504). Hemisphere Publishing Corporation,

See also

Spray Nozzle

 
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Spray_drying". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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