Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS



Project ID: 268281
Funded under: FP7-PEOPLE
Country: Spain

New sensor gives top-quality dairy products

An EU-funded initiative developed a novel non-invasive optical technology for easy assessment of the protein quality of milk. The technology will enable raw milk to be used for the purposes it is most suited to, thereby ensuring high-quality dairy products.
New sensor gives top-quality dairy products
Milk contains whey proteins that become denatured during heat treatment, thus altering its functional properties, moisture content and texture. The detection of functional properties can be used to decide whether the milk should be used to manufacture cheese or yoghurt, thereby helping to improve product quality.

The EU-funded project DENATUREPROBE (Development of an optical backscatter sensor for determining thermal denaturation of whey proteins during milk processing) developed an inline optical sensor technology to detect light backscatter from casein micelles present in milk. This enables the degree of denaturation in milk proteins to be assessed, as high-intensity heat treatment increases backscattering from micelles. This is due to the increased attachment of free sulphide groups of the denatured whey proteins with the k-casein on the casein micelle surface.

Researchers successfully set up a laboratory for performing optical measurements on thermally denatured milk proteins. Light backscattering properties were investigated in response to varying temperature levels, micelle particle size and pH using different waveband ratios.

Results demonstrated a decrease in light backscatter intensity from micelles with an increase in pH. An association was found between heat intensity treatments at different pH levels on light backscattering. A mathematical model was successfully developed to correlate changes in casein micelle size with temperature and pH from light backscattering data.

Predictive methods were used to determine particle size from light backscatter data measurements that were temperature-dependent. In addition, a patent disclosure application was made for the development of an inline optical sensor to measure casein particle size cheaply and non-invasively.

Successful project outcomes have resulted in a novel inline sensor for non-invasive whey-denaturation measurement in milk. This will address the critical gap in the dairy industry for determining optimal temperature settings for milk pasteurisation treatment.

The optimal pH and degree of gelation differ significantly for cheese and yoghurt. Hence, predicting the degree of gelation from heating will help optimise decision-making for the consistent and high-quality production of these dairy products by ensuring the ideal level of thermal exposure depending on the milk's ultimate purpose.

DENATUREPROBE's new sensor technology will give the dairy industry a powerful new tool for improving control of heat treatment, enabling dairy foods to be of better quality and consistency. It will enable those responsible for the decision-making process in dairy plants to efficiently select which batch of milk should be used according to the real functionality of its whey proteins after heat treatment.

Related information


Dairy products, milk, whey proteins, denaturation, optical sensor, light backscatter
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