Experimental quantification and modelling of attrition of infant formulae during pneumatic conveying

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Hanley, Kevin John
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University College Cork
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Infant formula is often produced as an agglomerated powder using a spray drying process. Pneumatic conveying is commonly used for transporting this product within a manufacturing plant. The transient mechanical loads imposed by this process cause some of the agglomerates to disintegrate, which has implications for key quality characteristics of the formula including bulk density and wettability. This thesis used both experimental and modelling approaches to investigate this breakage during conveying. One set of conveying trials had the objective of establishing relationships between the geometry and operating conditions of the conveying system and the resulting changes in bulk properties of the infant formula upon conveying. A modular stainless steel pneumatic conveying rig was constructed for these trials. The mode of conveying and air velocity had a statistically-significant effect on bulk density at a 95% level, while mode of conveying was the only factor which significantly influenced D[4,3] or wettability. A separate set of conveying experiments investigated the effect of infant formula composition, rather than the pneumatic conveying parameters, and also assessed the relationships between the mechanical responses of individual agglomerates of four infant formulae and their compositions. The bulk densities before conveying, and the forces and strains at failure of individual agglomerates, were related to the protein content. The force at failure and stiffness of individual agglomerates were strongly correlated, and generally increased with increasing protein to fat ratio while the strain at failure decreased. Two models of breakage were developed at different scales; the first was a detailed discrete element model of a single agglomerate. This was calibrated using a novel approach based on Taguchi methods which was shown to have considerable advantages over basic parameter studies which are widely used. The data obtained using this model compared well to experimental results for quasi-static uniaxial compression of individual agglomerates. The model also gave adequate results for dynamic loading simulations. A probabilistic model of pneumatic conveying was also developed; this was suitable for predicting breakage in large populations of agglomerates and was highly versatile: parts of the model could easily be substituted by the researcher according to their specific requirements.
Dairy powders , Attrition of agglomerates , Discrete element modelling , Taguchi methods , Pneumatic conveying
Hanley, K.J. 2011. Experimental quantification and modelling of attrition of infant formulae during pneumatic conveying. PhD Thesis, University College Cork.