Encapsulation as a problem solving

Publication in the journal "Beverage industry"2 / 2011, page 40-41 (English translation): Production of nano- and microparticles ensures longer shelf life of ingredients and products

Homburg, (PresseBox) - Limited stability, unpleasant taste or odor, negative impact on other ingredients or solubility and miscibility problems - these are just some of the problems that can occur with the use of some additives in drink manufacturing. The encapsulation and coating of the substances may be a promising remedy.

In the beverage industry, functional additives are often used in order to provide a certain additional benefit for the product. For example, omega-3 fatty acids are in vogue: they promise a preventive effect on atherosclerosis and coronary heart disease. But how the unpleasant fish oil taste and odor can be avoided, when used in beverages? Only without these negative "side effects" a modern, successful product can be created.

Another challenge: vitamins as additives can cause compatibility problems and changes in pH of the beverage. This can negatively affect the color of the product, especially when natural dyes are used. The addition of a poorly soluble ingredient such as riboflavin can cause turbidity and thus lead to an unacceptable appearance of the product. As another example, stability problems are mentioned, which often occur during storage and processing of the different beverage ingredients like flavors or mixtures thereof.

In the summary, cheap and realizable on the industrial scale answers to the challenges are searched, which improve the quality of the product using harmless substances and approved food additives and allow enrichment of beverages with "difficult" ingredients. One approach is the encapsulation and coating of particles.

Use and advantages of the encapsulation

In Omega-3 fatty acids for instance smell and taste can be masked with the encapsulation. At the same time, the encapsulation allows to incorporate the not with water miscible ingredient into an aqueous beverage.

The microjet reactor technology developed by the company MJR PharmJet GmbH from Saarland offers applications for encapsulation and coating of the problematic substances, such as above mentioned flavoring agents, for which an increase of their stability can be achieved, while the processing is facilitated. Since the encapsulated flavoring substances are less sensitive to external influences, their durability also increases. The intended applications of the microjet reactor in the beverage industry go much further: protection of the substances against external influences such as the decomposition by heat and light, oxidation and hydrolysis, and against unwanted reactions with other compounds or evaporation.

The advantages of the new technology are obvious: it offers improvement of properties such as solubility in water as well as the transfer of technological advantages, such as simpler dosing and handling of dry powders or the elimination and reduction of adverse features such as unpleasant tastes and odors. As a positive side effect the packaging costs are reduced, because stabilized ingredients require less expensive packaging.

Wide application

In applying the microjet reactor technology almost any particle size can be achieved. By setting the particle size in the submicron range, even after prolonged storage, very stable suspensions are produced, which are perceived by consumers as homogeneous liquids and not as particle solution. By further size reduction, transparent particles are produced. Their addition into a beverage does not cause any changes in the color properties.

Besides the classical use to stabilize or for masking smell and taste, new application areas are opened up for the microjet reactor technology in the beverage industry, such as the production of functional particles with a controlled release at certain parameters such as pH value, temperature, time or moisture. Thus, the Saarland company currently employs for example encapsulation of substances which are released in sequence or only at a specific temperature. The first products for the food and dietary supplement industry are currently under development.

Mode of action of the technology

The technology is based on the use of a micro reactor of the size of a match-box, in the middle of which, in simplified form, two fine impinging jets with the reactants as dissolved constituents meet. Thanks to the patented reactor design, there is a very fast and intensive mixing of these jets. A mixing time of below 0.1 ms is achieved. In this way, ideal conditions for the formation of particles are created. Other advantages of the microjet reactor technology are controllable particle size, very narrow particle size distribution and the ability to scale up the process. The production takes place in a completely closed system, there is almost no risk of microbiological contamination.

Why is this technology safe? "With the help of microjet reactor technology not only nanoparticles but also particles in the sub-micron (100 to 1000 nm) and micrometer-size range can be produced, " said Dr. Bernd Baumstümmler, managing director of the company at the Saarland University Clinic in Homburg. The production facilities are designed under the highest quality standards in accordance with the GMP requirements. This ensures that maximum production transparency and product safety are guaranteed. Operator error is not possible. In addition, the change of process parameters, such as pressure or reactor temperature, influenced directly the quality of the product. The simple monitoring of these parameters ensures a constant product quality according to the "Quality by Design" approach. "The safety of the microjet reactor technology is extended to the no-use of toxic organic solvents in the manufacturing process, which are due often necessary in the alternative technologies for the stabilization of the particle structures " said Dr. Baumstümmler. During preparation only approved food additives are used not only as the encapsulation material but also as further in the process necessary substances.

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