A milk pasteurisation replacement technique is being developed which extends the shelf life of milk while retaining more nutrients than traditional heat-based decontamination methods.
Deakin University’s Dr Sri Balaji Ponraj developed the unique plasma milk treatment in his PhD thesis.
Plasma is the fourth state of matter, in addition to solid, liquid and gas. It is created when a gas, like argon, is subjected to electrical field.
Dr Ponraj’s technique injects argon gas in milk, which is energized between two electrodes that have been immersed in the milk.
"We use a needle to send gas in milk to produce bubbles, which can then be converted into plasma by the application of electrical energy. This is an environmentally friendly, non-thermal approach to decontaminate milk," Dr Ponraj explained.
Dr Ponraj’s research showed that this plasma technique can deliver a significant advantage over the three week shelf life for milk from pasteurisation.
"Using this method, the shelf life of milk can be pushed out to six weeks minimum, which could absolutely change the landscape of the bovine dairy industry."
The plasma technique also provides a “significant nutritional advantage” compared to pasteurised milk.
“Our detailed study showed macronutrients - proteins, fatty acids in lipids and total carbohydrates looked significantly better,” Dr Ponraj said.
“We also found that the micronutrients like micro RNA were significantly better in milk treated by plasma.”
Dr Ponraj said the technique has completed a proof of concept trial at a lab scale and that commercial trials may be on the way, following strong commercial interest from the dairy sector.
He is investigating using the technique on human breast milk to maximise nutrition for pre-term infants, which he said could deliver a significant public health benefit.
Dr Ponraj developed the technique at the Deakin Institute for Frontier Materials along with colleagues Dr Jane Dai, Dr Julie Sharp and Professor Kevin Nicholas.
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