Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation

Animals, Agriculture & Food
Animals Agriculture Food
Method to Convert Whey Waste into Monosaccharides and Other Valuable Products
WARF: P180173US01

Inventors: George Huber, Mark Lindsay, Scott Rankin

The Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF) is seeking commercial partners interested in developing a highly selective (>94 percent) method for converting acid whey streams into valuable whey protein and glucose/galactose syrup.

The new route can reduce the water, energy and carbon footprints of the U.S. dairy industry and may be used to treat other dairy streams that contain lactose.

The U.S. dairy industry currently produces more than 55 million tons of waste each year in the form of unused milk products and whey waste from yogurt and cheese processing. Of this, four million tons of acid whey, a byproduct in the processing of Greek yogurt and cottage cheese, are produced with nearly all of it discarded at a cost to manufacturers with notable impacts on the environment.

Currently there is no technology to profitably treat acid whey or otherwise convert lactose-rich streams resulting from dairy manufacturing. Consequently, there is a significant market opportunity to convert these materials into more valuable components.
The Invention
UW–Madison researchers have developed a new catalytic approach for the conversion of lactose-rich dairy streams into whey protein, monosaccharides (glucose/galactose syrup) and water. The method includes the following steps:

First, the dairy waste stream undergoes ultrafiltration to separate it into retentate and permeate fractions. The smaller retentate stream goes through a standard protein extraction process to produce whey protein. The permeate (lactose stream) passes through a bed of activated carbon before being sent to the hydrolysis reactor. Activated carbon pretreatment removes 40 percent of the nitrogen-containing species that are responsible for undesired side reactions during the acid hydrolysis step. The ions are removed by a priority technology.

Hydrolysis is performed with either mineral acids or solid acid catalysts. The stream leaving the hydrolysis reactor is filtered with activated carbon to remove any solids and unwanted side products and then evaporated to make glucose/galactose syrup (see Figure 1 below).
  • Dairy/yogurt manufacturing
Key Benefits
  • Turns waste stream(s) into useful and valuable products
  • High selectivity and yield
Stage of Development
The researchers have achieved monosaccharide selectivities greater than 94 percent at conversions exceeding 90 percent. These results establish that acid whey has the potential to be effectively recycled to produce food additives instead of being disposed of in economically and environmentally unsustainable ways, which is current practice.
Additional Information
For More Information About the Inventors
For current licensing status, please contact Mark Staudt at [javascript protected email address] or 608-960-9845
Fig. 1 Flow chart of catalytic conversion of acid whey into water, whey protein concentrate and glucose/galactose syrup.