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Eco-efficient and safe antifouling surfaces for milk and egg processing industries – ECONOMICS

Eco-efficient and safe antifouling surfaces for milk and egg processing industries

Fouling deposits on heat exchangers surface arising from thermal treatments of milk or egg products is a major issue of food processing plants. Modifications of heat exchanger stainless steel surface properties may limit the onset of fouling, but at the state of the art, no satisfying solution has been reported. The high risk/high gain challenge of the project is to design novel non-wetting surfaces, showing food compatibility, antifouling properties, and resistance to cleaning procedures.

Challenge: design food compatible and durable antifouling surfaces

Thermal processing is an established energy-intensive process in the milk/egg sectors, as every milk or egg product is heated at least once when transformed. The major issue of these heat treatments is however the formation of fouling deposits on the stainless-steel based heat exchangers surfaces. Fouling deposit initiates as soon as the product is heated, resulting from the adhesion and cohesion of proteins and mineral species to the stainless steel surface of heat exchangers. It involves frequent, drastic, and expensive automated cleaning-in-place procedures to avoid any contamination risk. These frequent cleanings of food contact surfaces result in pronounced economic and environmental impacts through excessive rinsing water and harsh chemical use.<br />Several research teams are currently working on the development of anti-fouling coatings for different purposes (biofouling, marine fouling, ...), but over the past decade, only a few surface chemistries have been tested, with limited success, to try to decrease fouling from milk on heat exchangers. Moreover, to the best of our knowledge, no paper or patent deals at this time with potential antifouling solutions against egg derivatives.<br />To manage to propose at least one effective, safe, and eco-efficient antifouling material that can be applied at industrial scale to limit fouling in the food-processing industries, the goals of ECONOMICS project are thus multiple:<br />-Design a range of novel coatings and materials for heat exchangers in egg and milk processing industries, showing (i) food compatibility, (ii) durable antifouling properties, (iii) resistance to CIP and harsh chemical products and (iv) low aging versus time, temperature and turbulent flow.<br />-Understand the dairy/egg fouling adhesion and growth mechanisms at the interface of the developed surfaces/fluid through a multiscale approach.<br />-Assess the environmental impact and potential gain of these new surfaces by multiple criteria analyses

On one hand, surface functionalization processes of high potential, i.e., atmospheric plasma, sol-gel, and self-stratifying coatings will be applied on stainless steel and assessed. On the other hand, stainless steel will be replaced by carbon-based materials (carbon-graphite solid composite plates with engineered surfaces, mesoporous carbons, bi-continuous composites), which constitute a “disruptive” thermal technology that can lead to significant energy savings. Some of the materials designed, of controlled porosity, will also be tuned to become Slippery Liquid Infused Porous Surfaces (SLIPS), which are extremely promising for antifouling applications. All surfaces will be evaluated in milk and egg derivatives processes to evaluate fouling in pasteurization conditions. They will then be submitted to durability evaluation through cleaning-in-place procedures. The antifouling mechanism of action of the effective surfaces will be investigated at various scales (from nano to microscales) and their environmental impact and potential gain will be estimated by multiple criteria analyses (life cycle analysis). The proposed project will bring further understanding of a major bottleneck limiting the dissemination of more eco-efficient cleaning surfaces in the dairy industry.

In Lille University, different types of biomimetic surfaces are designed to fight fouling, using three different techniques: thin atmospheric plasma coatings have been deposited on stainless steel, leading to a fouling reduction of about 30%. Also, self-stratifying coatings (without any incorporated additives) have been designed, but no fouling reduction is observed yet. Some slippery surfaces (SLIPS) are also being designed in partnership with IEMN, using laser-treated stainless steel as a basis.
The LMCPA team (UPHF) is in charge of designing and characterizing self-cleaning ceramic-based coatings adhesive on stainless steel substrates. They obtained, using sol-gel chemistry, a nanometric coating of highly organized roughness. The size of these crystallites can be tuned and controlled, allowing them to obtain hydrophobic, photocatalytic, and antibacterial properties. However, the adherence of the coating during in-use conditions is still to be optimized, as some parts are released during fouling tests.
ULorraine concentrates on replacing stainless steel with carbon-based materials. The fouling behavior has been analyzed for different types of carbons: glassy carbon, flexible graphite, isotactic graphite, and extruded graphite. For both last ones, they were used pure or impregnated with polymers.
Results show that carbon-based materials do not prevent fouling. However, in terms of adherence, impregnated graphites show better performances than stainless steel. It appears that, without a chemical modification of the carbon surfaces to make them more hydrophobic, fouling remains but the materials are easier to clean after usage.

In the incoming months, ULille will continue to work on the three pathways (plasma, self-stratifying coatings and SLIPS) : (i) a new plasma set-up is created to deposit simultaneously or layer-by-layer different precursors, (ii) additives will be added in the self-stratifying coatings to improve their performance and finally (iii) different food compatible and fluorinated oils will be tested with the laser-treated stainless steel surfaces.
At UPHF, the next period work will focus on two aspects:(i) improvement of adherence of the sol-gel deposit and (ii) design of nano-ZnO coatings on more compatible substrates (carbonated substrates / nano-ZnO).
At ULorraine, the encouraging results obtained must be confirmed on the other tested materials. Plasma treatments will also be carried out on the graphite plate surface. These tests should allow better understand relationships between surface texture, fouling, and cleanability.
During the same time, the environmental impact of all processes used will be evaluated at ENSCL. Finally, a large scale test allowing to evaluate fouling with egg-based products will be designed at INRA

1. S. Zouaghi, J. Fremiot, C. André, M. A. Grunlan, C. Gruescu, G. Delaplace, S. Duquesne, M. Jimenez*, Investigating the effect of an antifouling surface modification on the environmental impact of a pasteurization process: an LCA study, ACS Sustainable Chemistry & Engineering, 7(10), 9133-9142 (2019) [doi: 10.1021/acssuschemeng.8b05835]
(Partenaires ULille, INRA Lille et ENSCL)

2. S. Zouaghi, S. Bellayer, V. Thomy, T. Dargent, Y. Coffinier, C. André, G. Delaplace, M. Jimenez*, Biomimetic surface modifications of stainless steel targeting dairy fouling mitigation and bacterial adhesion, Food and Bioproducts Processing 113, 32-38 (2019) [doi: 10.1016/j.fbp.2018.10.012]
(Partenaires ULille, ENSCL, IEMN, INRA Lille)

3. S. Zouaghi, M. Abdallah, C. André, N. E. Chihib, S. Bellayer, G. Delaplace, A. Celzard, M. Jimenez*, Fouling-Release Graphite-Based Composites for Whey Protein Fouling and Bacterial Adhesion Management, International Dairy Journal 86 69-75 (2018) [doi: 10.1016/j.idairyj.2018.07.004]
(Partenaires ULille, INRA Lille, ULorraine, ENSCL)

Fouling deposit formation on heat exchangers surface arising from thermal treatments of milk and egg products is a major and severe industrial issue of food processing plants. It involves drastic and expensive cleaning measures, resulting in excessive rinsing water and harsh chemical use and accounting for 80% of the whole production costs. Modifications of heat exchanger stainless steel surface properties may in theory limit the onset of fouling, but at the state of the art no satisfying solution has been reported. The high risk/high gain challenge of ECONOMICS project is to design novel non-wetting surfaces, showing food compatibility, antifouling properties and resistance to cleaning procedures. On one hand, surface functionalization processes of high potential, i.e., atmospheric plasma, sol-gel and self-stratifying coatings will be applied on stainless steel and assessed. On the other hand, stainless steel will be replaced by carbon-based materials (carbon-graphite solid composite plates with engineered surfaces, mesoporous carbons, bi-continuous composites), which constitute a “disruptive” thermal technology that can lead to significant energy savings. Some of the materials designed, of controlled porosity, will also be tuned to become Slippery Liquid Infused Porous Surfaces (SLIPS), which are extremely promising for antifouling applications. All surfaces will be evaluated in milk and egg derivatives processes to evaluate fouling in pasteurization conditions. They will then be submitted to durability evaluation through cleaning-in-place procedures. The antifouling mechanism of action of the effective surfaces will be investigated at various scales (from nano to microscales) and their environmental impact and potential gain will be estimated by multiple criteria analyses (life cycle analysis).The proposed project will bring further understanding of a major bottleneck limiting the dissemination of more eco-efficient cleaning surfaces in dairy industry.

Project coordinator

Madame Maude JIMENEZ (Unité Matériaux et Transformations (UMET)-Université Sciences et Technologies de Lille)

The author of this summary is the project coordinator, who is responsible for the content of this summary. The ANR declines any responsibility as for its contents.

Partner

INRA Rennes - STLO Institut National Recherche Agronomiques-Rennes
INRA-UMET Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique-Unité Matériaux et Transformations -
IJL-ULorraine Institut Jean Lamour (Matériaux - Métallurgie - Nanosciences - Plasmas - Surfaces)
UMET-ENSCL Unité Matériaux et Transformations - Ecole Nationale Supérieure de Chimie de Lille
Institut Michel Eugene Chevreul
IEMN Institut d'électronique, de microélectronique et de nanotechnologie
LMCPA - UValenciennes Laboratoire des Matériaux Céramiques et Procédés Associés - Université Valenciennes
UMET-ULille Unité Matériaux et Transformations (UMET)-Université Sciences et Technologies de Lille

Help of the ANR 571,421 euros
Beginning and duration of the scientific project: - 42 Months

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