PhD candidate finds potential alternative to milk pasteurisation

Thursday, 21 December, 2017

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A PhD candidate at Deakin University has found a way to preserve milk for more than six weeks while also increasing its nutritional value.

Sri Balaji Ponraj found that shooting microscopic plasma bubbles through milk could be an alternative to pasteurisation, the traditional preservation method used for over 150 years.

Ponraj, alongside Institute for Frontier Materials researchers Dr Jane Dai and Dr Julie Sharp, believed that this non-thermal method is “less aggressive” than pasteurisation, but still prevents bacteria growing as fast. This extends the shelf life of milk for a much longer period of time while also maintaining more of its nutritional value.

“We use a needle to send tiny gas bubbles through the milk, which can then be converted into plasma that provides an environmentally friendly, non-thermal approach to decontamination,” he said. “Using this method, the shelf life of milk can be pushed out to six weeks minimum, which could absolutely change the landscape of the bovine dairy industry.”

While research is still yet to be done using human participants, Ponraj said the method could have the potential to help the supply of human breast milk. Hospital wards and nurseries could stockpile milk without fearing it would spoil, and expressed milk — rich in important nutrients — could retain its nutritional benefits.

Ponraj recently celebrated his graduation from Deakin among 850 other students from the School of Medicine, Arts and Education, Business and Law, and Health across three ceremonies at Geelong’s Waterfront campus.

Deakin University Vice-Chancellor Professor Jane den Hollander praised the graduands who strive to innovate, such as Ponraj.

“Ideas, knowledge and know-how are the critical currency for success in the 21st century, and discoveries like the one Sri Balaji Ponraj has already made show just what a difference we can make when we combine ideas, technology and drive,” Hollander said.

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