Calcium citrate insolubilization drives the fouling of falling film evaporators during the concentration of hydrochloric acid whey.
When dairy powders are produced, the mineral fraction undergoes strong modifications during the vacuum concentration step, leading to the fouling of falling film evaporators. The objective of this study was to determine the nature of the deposits formed during the vacuum concentration of two fouling and highly mineralized products: hydrochloric acid whey and lactic acid whey. These products mainly differ in terms of their mineral composition: lactic acid whey contains a high level of lactic acid and traces of citrate, whereas hydrochloric acid whey contains citrate and no lactic acid. Concentrates at different concentration factors were produced using a pilot-scale falling film evaporator. The compositions of the fouling deposits as well as the precipitates present in the concentrates were deduced from the analytical determination of the composition of the concentrates and their respective diffusible phases. The behavior of the mineral fraction of both acid wheys during concentration was shown to be very different. In the case of hydrochloric acid whey, experimental results suggested a deposition of calcium and citrate ions in the evaporator as well as their precipitation in the highly concentrated products. On the contrary, neither mineral deposition nor precipitation occurred during the concentration of lactic acid whey. This study underlined the key role of citrate ions in the fouling of evaporators during the concentration of hydrochloric acid wheys.