The impact of atomization on the surface composition of spray-dried milk droplets

Martin Foerster, Thomas Gengenbach, Meng Wai Woo, Cordelia Selomulya

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39 Citations (Scopus)


The dominant presence of fat at the surface of spray-dried milk powders has been widely reported in the literature and described as resulting in unfavourable powder properties. The mechanism(s) causing this phenomenon are yet to be clearly identified. A systematic investigation of the component distribution in atomized droplets and spray-dried particles consisting of model milk systems with different fat contents demonstrated that atomization strongly influences the final surface composition. Cryogenic flash-freezing of uniform droplets from a microfluidic jet nozzle directly after atomization helped to distinguish the influence of the atomization stage from the drying stage. It was confirmed that the over representation of fat on the surface is independent of the atomization technique, including a pressure-swirl single-fluid spray nozzle and a pilot-scale rotary disk spray dryer commonly used in industry. It is proposed that during the atomization stage a disintegration mechanism along the oil-water interface of the fat globules causes the surface predominance of fat. X-ray photoelectron spectroscopic measurements detected the outermost fat layer and some adjacent protein present on both atomized droplets and spray-dried particles. Confocal laser scanning microscopy gave a qualitative insight into the protein and fat distribution throughout the cross-sections, and confirmed the presence of a fat film along the particle surface. The film remained on the surface in the subsequent drying stage, while protein accumulated underneath, driven by diffusion. The results demonstrated that atomization induces component segregation and fat-rich surfaces in spray-dried milk powders, and thus these cannot be prevented by adjusting the spray drying conditions.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)460 - 471
Number of pages12
JournalColloids and Surfaces B: Biointerfaces
Publication statusPublished - 2016


  • Milk powder
  • Spray drying
  • Flash-freezing
  • Surface fat
  • Atomization
  • Oil-water interface

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