Innovation in Spray Drying: a collaboration between INRAE and Purecontrol

May 21, 2024

AI at the Service of the Processing Industry: How Purecontrol is Revolutionizing the Drying Process with INRAE

In the agri-food industry, spray drying is a crucial process for transforming liquids into solid powders. This process improves the stability, storage, and preservation of products. However, it is also very energy-intensive, representing, for example, 25% of the energy consumption in the dairy industry. To optimize this process and reduce its energy footprint, Purecontrol has partnered with the National Research Institute for Agriculture, Food, and the Environment (INRAE). Together, they have integrated the SD2P (Spray Drying Determining Parameters) software into the Purecontrol solution for real-time control, thus revolutionizing spray drying in several industries.

The Spray Drying Process: A Smart Industry Approach

Spray drying involves spraying a liquid into fine droplets in a drying chamber. These droplets are then dried by a stream of hot air, forming solid particles. This process is ubiquitous in various processing industries such as:

  • Agri-food: Used to produce milk powders, fruit juices, flavors, and proteins. For example, milk powder is essential for infant formula and processed dairy products. Powdered flavors are widely used to enhance the taste of foods without adding moisture.
  • Pharmaceutical: Crucial for manufacturing powdered medicines, facilitating dosage and administration. Pharmaceutical powders can be reconstituted into solutions or compressed into tablets.
  • Chemical: Used for the production of chemical powders such as pigments, catalysts, and detergents. Powdered pigments are used in paints and inks, while powdered catalysts are essential in industrial processes.
  • Biotechnology: Used for drying sensitive biological products like enzymes and probiotics, preserving their biological activity and offering extended shelf life.

The main advantages of spray drying include high production capacity, the ability to handle heat-sensitive products, and the production of powders with specific characteristics (particle size, density, etc.). However, this process is also very energy-intensive, requiring continuous optimization to improve energy efficiency and reduce costs.

The SD2P Software: A Revolutionary Tool for Drying Process Control

Developed by Pierre Schuck and Romain Jeantet at the STLO (Science and Technology of Milk and Egg) laboratory of INRAE in Rennes, the SD2P (Spray Drying Determining Parameters) software is a powerful tool for determining key spray drying parameters. It considers the complex interactions inherent in the process to offer optimization based on theoretical data.

To define the optimal drying parameters of a product, the SD2P solution includes a preliminary analytical desorption drying step to determine the evaporative water content of the product. By processing these results, the software generates a graph visualizing the drying kinetics over time, significantly reducing experimentation costs by avoiding the need for pilot installations.

The software is adaptable to a wide range of food and pharmaceutical products, as well as drying installations with capacities ranging from 5 to 25,000 kg/h. This adaptability is confirmed by validation tests on more than 100 products, demonstrating the robustness and flexibility of SD2P.

A Cascade of Benefits for Drying Performance

The SD2P software improves the reliability and speed of developing new formulas by reducing the time required for these developments. It offers a deep understanding of water transfer mechanisms and product drying kinetics, allowing better control of drying parameters. By optimizing these parameters, SD2P helps improve the yields of installations, approaching theoretical evaporation capacity and thus increasing productivity.

Furthermore, the software allows better control of drying costs through accurate parameter prediction, thereby avoiding energy losses. This optimization results in a significant improvement in the quality and shelf life of the powders produced. Used also as an educational tool, SD2P facilitates operator training by providing a practical and in-depth understanding of drying parameters. Finally, it measures the impact of key process/product interaction parameters, allowing better management and optimization.

Global Adoption with 36 Licenses Already Commercialized

Since its launch in 2009, the solution has been subject to 36 licenses worldwide, mainly marketed to the dairy industry, where it has improved productivity by 5 to 25% while reducing energy costs by up to 15%. Today, more than 10% of the world's milk powder volume is produced with the help of this software. Other sectors, such as agri-food and pharmaceuticals, are also showing increasing interest in SD2P, seeking to optimize their own spray drying processes.

Now Available with Real-Time Dynamic Control by Purecontrol for Enhanced Industrial Performance

The collaboration between Purecontrol and INRAE for optimizing spray drying represents a major advancement for the processing industries. By integrating the SD2P software into the Purecontrol solution, industries can now optimize their processes in real time, further reducing energy costs, increasing productivity, and improving product quality. This initiative aligns perfectly with the commitment of Purecontrol and INRAE to promote innovative and sustainable solutions for the industry.

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