Equipment

Pre-industrial pilot plant

This plant is equipped with highly specialised equipment to carry out different biotechnological or primary transformation processes.

  • Extraction of compounds from solid (solid/liquid extraction) or liquid (liquid/liquid extraction) matrices using solvents by traditional processes.
  • Cold pressing. Process of slow crushing and pressing, extracting the oil or juice from different plant materials without generating additional heat. This technique has become very popular for its ability to preserve the enzymes, vitamins and minerals present in the food.
  • Microwave extraction. It causes internal heating of the water inside the samples, breaking the cells, which allows the rapid extraction of volatile compounds such as essential oils from aromatic and/or medicinal plants, spices and dried seeds. The extraction is carried out solvent-free. On the other hand, the extraction of flavouring substances and non-volatile natural compounds can be carried out by combining microwave heating and gravity. In both processes, solvent and extraction times are saved.
  • Extraction of compounds from solid matrices using solvents (solid/liquid extraction) at high temperature and pressure (subcritical conditions). This process allows the use of environmentally friendly solvents more suitable for human consumption (such as water and ethanol), obtaining higher yields than with conventional solid/liquid extraction. Furthermore, the extraction is automated and carried out in an oxygen-free atmosphere (thus avoiding oxidative degradation of compounds), requiring small quantities of solvents and short extraction times.
  • Extraction by means of supercritical fluids. It can be applied in extractive processes, fractionation processes, or processes for the elimination of unwanted compounds (dearomatisation, decontamination, etc.). It offers the possibility of using a co-solvent, by means of its own pump and conduction circuit, improving the efficiency and optimisation of the processes
  • The pilot plant has a very versatile semi-industrial tangential filtration equipment for the purification and concentration of compounds of interest dissolved in a liquid matrix. The plant houses micro-, ultra-, nano- and hyper- (reverse osmosis) filtration membranes of different configuration (flat spiral wound or cassette packed, hollow fibre, capillary or multichannel) and materials (polymers or minerals). It has a thermostatisation system that guarantees isothermal conditions throughout the entire treatment.
  • Evaporation of excess solvents and solvent combinations from raw materials and products at moderate temperatures. It is characterised by an easy-to-use, high-capacity concentrator. It has different selectable heating levels to optimise evaporation. The process can be assisted by centrifugation.
  • Density gradient ultracentrifugation. It is a common technique used to isolate and purify the structures of biomolecules and cells. It takes advantage of the fact that, in suspension, particles that are denser than the solvent will sediment, while those that are less dense will float. A high-speed ultracentrifuge is used to accelerate this process in order to separate biomolecules within a density gradient, which can be established by liquids and decreasing the density in a centrifuge tube.

The pilot plant is equipped with a system of bioreactors capable of carrying out controlled fermentation processes of bacteria, fungi, animal cells and plant cells. This is achieved through the uniform distribution of nutrients and gases in the fermentation medium, as well as the maintenance of optimal culture conditions through the continuous monitoring and control of variables such as temperature, pH, dissolved oxygen, turbidity and outlet gas volume. In addition, biofermentation allows the recovery of the final products obtained in these processes. All this contributes to the efficient growth of microorganisms and the successful production of biomass and various biological metabolites of interest.

  • Dehydrators and dryers. They allow the optimal drying of a wide range of products thanks to the strict control of different variables such as time, temperature, air speed and humidity. Dehydrators and dryers allow the natural drying of fruits, seaweed, vegetables, aromatic herbs, pollen, flowers and many other products.
  • Freeze-drying. Removal of water from products or solutions, under low pressure and temperature conditions, which allows these dehydrated products to maintain all their stable properties. Water is removed by freezing of the product and subsequent sublimation of the ice under vacuum and low temperature conditions. By supplying heat, the ice passes from its solid phase to the gaseous phase (sublimation), without reaching the boiling point of water, and the passage through the liquid phase is avoided.
  • Atomisation. Drying (dehydration) of aqueous or organic solutions, emulsions, etc.; particle size reduction (micronisation) or microencapsulation of various products using solid matrices. In general, this equipment can be used for a wide range of products, so in the food industry it can be used to dehydrate milk, yeast, baby food, beer, whey, tofu, etc.; to micronise lactose, corn starch, etc.; or to microencapsulate vegetable or essential oils using maltodextrins as a matrix, etc. It also has interesting applications for the production of different products in the pharmaceutical and chemical industries.
  • Fluidised bed. Drying of solid particles (powders and granules) by exposing the surface of each individual particle to a flow of hot air at high pressure where it is suspended, resulting in improved heat transfer and reduced drying time. This process reduces the dehydration time compared to the use of ovens or drying tunnels by approximately twenty times, as the entire surface of the product is exposed to the high-volume air stream. In addition, it provides controlled and uniform conditions compared to the uneven process on trays.
  • Vacuum packaging and thermosealing of various materials, both solid (food, plants, etc.) and liquid. The possibility of adding gases and controlling their pressure inside the packaging facilitates packaging in both inert and active atmospheres.
  • Skin Pack” packaging. In this operation, the product or products are placed on a base that can be made of different materials and qualities, to which a plastic is suctioned by means of heat and vacuum, which is attached to the base material and to the product like a skin.
  • Encapsulation of active ingredients or ingredients, solid or liquid, in a shell or coating, capsules. Encapsulation of active ingredients in nutraceutical products, medicinal products, etc. may be necessary to protect the bioactive substances, control their release or improve the functionality of the formulation (bioavailability and bioaccessibility).
  • Grinding. It allows the pulverisation and disintegration of raw materials and generates an increase in the contact surface. Consequently, it improves the efficiency of the successive preparation stages, such as: extraction, heating, cooling and dehydration, in addition to uniformity in particle size, contributing to a better homogenisation of the materials and even better separation of the component to be analysed. The mills available have knife rotors, suitable for fibrous or malleable materials, and hammer rotors, suitable for fragile or rigid materials. They allow continuous or batch operation.
  • Cryogenic grinding for raw materials containing thermolabile or highly volatile compounds.
  • Grinding. The production of a homogeneous material by particle size reduction and mixing. This process is necessary before the subsequent steps of the material transformation process can take place, and primary and secondary crushing can be carried out.
  • The most commonly used particle size reduction processes in grinding machines are compression, impact, shear rubbing and shearing. This makes it possible to homogenise products of different natures.
  • Ultra High Pressure Homogenisation (UHPH). It efficiently converts the pressure of a fluid into shear forces. The entire product undergoes identical processing conditions, producing the desired results, including uniform product and droplet size reduction (often sub-micrometre), deagglomeration and high throughput cell disruption. As a UHPH system, it enables the reduction of the microbiological load under controlled low temperature conditions.

Particle size analysis allows the measurement, display and reporting of particle or droplet size distribution in a given product. These determinations play an essential role during the development of new processes and quality control of particle systems in order to optimise efficient and sustainable processes and achieve high quality end products. Data analysis allows prediction of the behaviour of emulsions and suspensions (mayonnaises, juices, smoothies, etc.) during their commercialisation.

  • Sieving. Mixtures of particles of various sizes pass through a set of sieves through which the particles are separated into fractions according to their size.
  • Centrifugation (sedimentation). Allows to reduce the load of settleable solids with relatively large particle sizes.

The HTST/UHT processing system is a highly flexible equipment that allows the thermal treatment of liquid samples of a wide range of viscosities, such as juices, yoghurt, sauces, infant products, milk, etc. The heat exchange can be carried out by means of tubular or plate heat exchangers and the temperature of the different stages of the process (pre-heating, heating, cooling and packaging) is continuously monitored. Packaging can be carried out in sterile conditions and a nitrogen nozzle, which can be directed over the container while filling, is available to obtain a headspace with low oxygen content.

They allow the stability of a wide variety of products to be determined under different climatic conditions of cold, heat, humidity and exposure to light. For this purpose, the IAT has climatic chambers with a temperature range between -20 and 360 ºC.

  • Whipping systems allow the separation of the oily fraction from the aqueous fraction, breaking the emulsion and promoting coalescence. They can also be used to homogenise a product, to make it condense or lock, or to liquefy or dissolve it.
  • Emulsification systems, on the other hand, allow two immiscible liquids to be mixed in a stable way, forming a dispersed and a continuous phase, resulting in a homogeneous suspension.

Common laboratories

They are equipped with spectrophotometers, laminar flow cabinets, ovens and other auxiliary equipment for physico-chemical and microbiological analyses.

Individual laboratories

They have equipment and instruments for basic operations. Equipment includes scales, stirrers, thermometers and refrigeration equipment, among others.

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