(191j) Producing a Value Added Artificial Sweetener from Dairy Processing By-Product Via the Hydrogenation of Lactose

Kasick, A. - Presenter, Ohio University
Lee, S., Ohio University
An agricultural issue that is quickly becoming an environmental challenge is the handling of whey byproduct from dairy processing, with annual production likely exceeding 200 million tons. Of the raw milk used for cheese and yogurt manufacturing, a large portion, approximately up to 90%, exits as a whey waste product, and traditional handling techniques such as supplementing animal feed or spreading across farm land will increasingly struggle to keep pace with the output of dairy waste product. Of the compounds that constitute the mixture known as whey, one of the most environmentally detrimental is lactose, or the milk sugar, which makes up approximately 70% of whey's solids composition. Unfortunately, the potential end-uses of lactose are limited by the worldwide prevalence of lactose intolerance, which affects about two thirds of the world's population. An effective strategy for dealing with the agricultural issue of whey waste from dairy processing would be the production of a value-added substance from lactose.

This dual opportunity of addressing an environmental challenge and of promoting the use of a feed stock has motivated research at the Sustainable Energy and Advanced Materials (SEAM) Laboratory of Ohio University, specifically the hydrogenation of lactose to form lactitol, the sugar alcohol derivative of lactose. Lactitol has been recognized and accepted as a potential alternative sweetener which does not aggravate human health issues relating to the consumption of lactose or other sugars. Work has been underway at the SEAM Lab to develop a batch-wise experimental process system to study process variables which may promote the desired chemical reaction.

The effective and beneficial utilization of whey waste product from dairy processing is an environmentally relevant issue. Pursuing value-added compounds that can be produced from the components of whey will aid in developing strategies which address and handle this issue. The use of hydrogenation to turn lactose, a significant component of whey, into lactitol, a viable alternative sweetener, will be an important route in pursuing this strategy. This reactive conversion strategy could be similarly exploitable to convert other sugar compounds into derivative sugar alcohols, such as converting xylose to xylitol.


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