Freeze-Dry: Industrial Applications
Freeze drying is a process also known as lyophilization or cryodesiccation. This dehydration process preserves perishable products, reducing pressure to sublime water from a solid to a gas phase. First used to preserve blood serum during World War II (although freeze-drying was invented in 1906), industrial freeze dry techniques are now used in food processing, pharmaceuticals, laboratory and testing, and preserving dietary nutritional supplements, or nutraceuticals, to name a few.
By freeze-drying a product, it cannot reabsorb moisture, even if stored at room temperature after the process is complete. The reduced water content prevents enzymes and microorganisms from degrading a product. Freeze-drying prevents spoilage, doesn’t usually cause shrinkage, and retains flavor, smell, and nutritional content of preserved food. Rehydrating these products is a faster process than with other methods of preservation.
Applications for industrial lyophilizers include:
Meat, vegetables (especially watercress and spinach), and fish can be freeze-dried, while their taste and nutritional value are retained. For food, freeze dry techniques were used in the 1970s for crops. Freeze-dried ice cream soon followed. The process is now often used for cereals, juices, and coffee, as well as soups and instant meals. Freeze-dried fruits are used in breakfast cereal and snacks, and as pet food for birds.
Pharmaceutical freeze dryers are used to preserve biological products such as vaccines, proteins, enzymes, and hormones. The shelf-life of a live virus vaccine can be extended. Essentially, any injectable material can be preserved in a glass vial with water removed, which eases storage and shipping. Pharmaceutical lyophilizers create powders that can be reconstituted later in a vial or prefilled syringe. They’re used for vaccines for measles and typhoid fever, anti-blood clot medicine, insect anti-venom, and therapeutic monoclonal antibodies.
Laboratory and Testing
In the Research and Development sector, R&D freeze dry machines are used to stabilize and store biological materials. The process does not damage the chemical structure, preserves heat-sensitive materials, and reduces the risk of contamination. Since refrigeration isn’t required, transport is less expensive. Antibiotics, vaccines and antibodies, pathological samples/cultures, viruses and bacteria, and active pharmaceutical ingredients can be safely preserved using laboratory freeze dryers.
Dietary nutritional supplements such as aloe vera and echinacea are stored using commercial freeze dry machines. Shark cartilage and mussels, like many culinary herbs, can be stored, shipped, and sold freeze-dried, as can dry drink formulas. The same process is used for probiotics, cheeses, and yogurts.
In addition to the prevalent use of scientific freeze dryers, other applications of lyophilization include:
- Dairy: Proteins for baby foods, and enzymes for probiotics.
- Floral freeze-drying: Flowers can be preserved for decoration or for weddings or memorials.
- Document recovery: Freeze drying water-damaged books and documents can preserve them, as does lyophilizing items from shipwrecks.
- Taxidermy: To freeze-dry animal remains for museums or to preserve pets.
Parker offers various commercial freeze dry machines, trays, and shelves, and it customizes its products for clients in many industries. For more information on our equipment and applications, contact us online, email email@example.com, or call 636-387-7703.