Molecular Understanding of Fouling Induction and Removal: Effect of the Interface Temperature on Milk Deposits

Alejandro Avila-Sierra, Holly A Huellemeier, Zhenyu J Zhang, Dennis R Heldman, Peter J Fryer

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Molecular details concerning the induction phase of milk fouling on stainless steel at an elevated temperature range were established to better understand the effect of temperature on surface fouling during pasteurization. The liquid-solid interface that replicates an industrial heat exchanger (≤75°C), including four stages (preheating, heating, holding, and cooling), was investigated using both a quartz crystal microbalance (QCM-D) and a customized flow cell. We found that the milk fouling induction process is rate-limited by the synergistic effects of bulk reactions, mass transfer, and surface reactions, all of which are controlled by both liquid and surface temperatures. Surface milk foulant becomes more rigid and compact as it builds up. The presence of protein aggregates in the bulk fluid leads to a fast formation of surface deposit with a reduced Young's modulus. Foulant adhesion and cohesion strength was enhanced as both interfacial temperature and processing time increased, while removal force increased with an increasing deposit thickness. During cleaning, caustic swelling and removal showed semilinear correlations with surface temperature (TS), where higher TS reduced swelling and enhanced removal. Our findings evidence that adsorption kinetics, characteristics of the foulant, and the subsequent removal mechanism are greatly dependent on the temperature profile, of which the surface temperature is the most critical one.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)35506-35517
Number of pages12
JournalACS Applied Materials & Interfaces
Issue number30
Early online date26 Jul 2021
Publication statusPublished - 4 Aug 2021


  • QCM-D
  • elevated temperature
  • induction
  • milk fouling
  • nanomechanical properties

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Materials Science(all)


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