Researchers from New Zealand's University of Canterbury (UC) are in the process of developing a dairy industry bio-film that can significantly reduce cleaning and maintenance costs for production lines.
The new bio-film can be used to coat stainless steel surfaces, which could save the country's food production sector a considerable portion of the NZ$300m ($237m) it spends annually cleaning and maintaining these lines.
Researchers have been looking for a solution to the problem of bio-fouling by milk proteins for some time.
Heat exchangers currently need to be cleaned every day due to rapid milk fouling in order to maintain production capability and efficiency besides meeting strict hygiene standards.
UC postgraduate student Neha Chandrasekaran said that one of the highest-performing sectors in the New Zealand economy is the dairy industry, which processes more than 13 billion litres of milk annually.
"The main challenge faced by the industry is the fouling on the stainless steel pipelines, equipment and heat exchangers used in milk processing facilities," Chandrasekaran said.
"Fouling of heat exchangers is a serious issue as it reduces heat transfer efficiency, causes contamination for the product and increases pressure drop and, hence, affects the economy of the processing plant."
The research seeks to use synthetic mussel sequences to replicate bio-film found in the marine world.
Image: UC postgraduate student Neha Chandrasekaran said the main challenge faced by the dairy industry is the fouling on the stainless steel pipelines. Photo: courtesy of University of Canterbury.