A Future Protein Source – Thanks to Separation

Author / Editor: Nils Engelke* / Dominik Stephan

Separation technology, an important cornerstone in the gentle processing of lupines — The year 2010 — with no particular fanfare in the media, employees of the Fraunhofer Institute found Prolupin. It starts a success story that, thanks to great innovation and strong partners, was awarded the 2014 German Zukunftspreis (Future Prize). And always close at the scientist's side — separator specialist Flottweg. Because only the latest in separation technology solutions can make the processing of lupines possible at an industrial scale.

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( © Andrea Izzotti - Fotolia)

Lupines, also called wolf beans, are several species of plants in the legume family. Their seeds contain protein which can be used instead of soy in animal fodder or human foods. Due to the protein's high-quality and a fat percentage of just a few percent, they are a valuable foodstuff with a high content in essential amino acids.

Further advantages are that the plant can be grown outstandingly well in Central Europe, and its nitrogen-fixing roots lead to a natural soil improvement. The lupine is thus perfect for sustainable, resource-friendly agriculture.

Focus on Proteins

The idea of using lupines for food production came about over ten years ago — But developing a technology to separate the seed's component materials fully from one another proved to be a big challenge for the researchers.

Until now, despite their many advantages, lupines were not interesting for the consumer market because bitter materials made them unsavory. Thanks to a new method, unpleasant odor and taste substances can be identified and removed.

Over 90% Target Yield

To ensure a sustainable economic lupine fractionation, the target yield for all fractions is over 90 %. But how can "sensorily neutral" proteins be obtained from the seed? First, the grains are shelled and rolled to extremely thin flakes. Oil is then extracted from the flakes using supercritical CO2: At a pressure of over 74 bar and temperatures greater than 31° C, CO2 takes on liquid-like properties. The majority of the oils and accompanying materials are thus dissolve.