CSIRO is helping develop a new technology for the food industry - forward osmosis.

The challenge

Concentrating liquids in the food industry

Many foods and beverages go through a concentration or evaporation step during processing to be able to last long enough to be shipped and stored or conveniently used as an ingredient in another product.

One industry that concentration is an important process for is the dairy industry. Milk is pumped through an evaporator to remove much of the water, then through a spray dryer to remove the rest of the water, which creates milk powder.

Evaporators use heat and vacuum to concentrate liquids, which can reduce the quality of some food and beverage products. They also use a lot of energy to operate and can foul, which can cause costly delays.

Other concentration technologies include membrane systems such as reverse osmosis, which also use pressure.

Our response

Our technology collaboration with Porifera

We have teamed up with US membrane technology specialist company, Porifera, to develop a relatively new technology that also concentrates food and beverage streams.

Jennifer Klare of Porifera with Australia's first forward osmosis unit for the food industry at CSIRO's food innovation centre in Werribee, Melbourne

Forward osmosis uses membranes to concentrate liquids but it uses considerably less pressure than evaporation, therefore it uses less energy, there is significantly less fouling and cleaning is easier.

The process doesn't use heat, so proteins remain intact and components such as vitamins, flavours and aromas are retained, which means food products can have better quality attributes.

The first commercial unit for the Australian food industry is at CSIRO's food innovation centre in Werribee, Melbourne, and is available for the food and beverage industry.

The results

Forward osmosis for the food industry – a bright future

Preliminary estimates show that the capital costs of forward osmosis can be less than 70 per cent and operating costs less than 60 per cent of those for evaporation, its main competitor technology. As a result, forward osmosis units can be installed on-farm such as dairy farms, not just in factories. This means less water is transported, thus also reducing transportation costs.

Forward osmosis has applications not only in dairy products but other foods and beverages such as fruit juices, proteins, water treatment and any application where water is removed.

Given the advantages in energy and transport efficiency, high quality concentrates and product functionality, amongst others, we believe there is a bright future for forward osmosis technology in the food industry.

[Music plays and CSIRO logo and text appears on screen: CSIRO and Porifera demonstrate the first forward osmosis unit for the food industry in Australia]

[Music plays and image changes to show Jennifer Klare standing next to the PFO100 module and talking to the camera and text appears: Jennifer Klare, Porifera Inc, USA]

Jennifer Klare:  Hello, my name is Jennifer Klare.  I’m from Porifera Inc and we’re here today to demo our new technology.  This is our PFO100 module that we fabricated at our facilities in Hayward, California and brought here to CSIRO in Werribee Australia.  Here we have today our first module that can operate both in counter flow and co-current flow for milk concentration.

[Music plays and images flash through of employees standing around the PFO100 module and then the camera zooms in on the PFO100 module]

[Image changes to show Jennifer Klare standing next to the PFO100 module and talking to the camera and then the image shows Jennifer Klare demonstrating the feed path on the right-hand side of the PFO100 module]

This module is 28 metres squared and you have the feed entering into the bottom of the stack and it flows through the interior of the module and enters out the top of the stack as the feed concentrate. 

[Image shows Jennifer Klare demonstrating the feed path on the left-hand side of the PFO100 module and the camera zooms in and pans up the PFO100 module]

Conversely, we have the draw entering into the other side.  In this particular mode, we are entering at the bottom of the stack and the draw is flowing through and coming diluted out of the top of the stack and that forces the flow to be serpentine through the element at that particular plate

[Camera zooms out to show Jennifer Klare talking to and demonstrating with her hands to the employees]

And so, you end up with a longer membrane path length which is how we can do the once through single pass in counter current operation.

[Music plays and the image shows Jennifer Klare talking to the employees in the background while an employee in the foreground looks at a milk solution in a stainless steel tub]

[Camera zooms in on the milk solution in the tub and then a hand appears holding a solids’ measuring device and text appears: Total solids climbing to 50%]

[Image changes to show a group of people, in front of a building displaying a CSIRO logo, smiling at the camera and text appears: The CSIRO and Porifera forward osmosis team]

[Text appears: Contact: Kirthi De Silva, CSIRO, t + 61 3 9731 3319, e Kirthi.Desilva@csiro.au, w csiro.au/food-innovation]

[Porifera logo appears]

[Music plays and CSIRO logo and text appears: Big ideas start here, www.csiro.au]

Forward Osmosis Demonstration

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