Chromatographic separation technology, underestimated or not?

Biotechnology as an enabling technology in food. In the old days fermentation was used to conserve and process foods, nowadays it is used to create vegetable proteins and other meat alternatives. During the IFFI masterclass ‘Tech at the Table’ (March 24th and 25th) participants will be introduced to the possibilities of biotechnology. We speak to René Nanninga, director of XPure, which supplies continuous chromatographic separation technology to the bio-based chemicals and food industry.

Chromatography is generally known as a laboratory technique for qualitative and quantitative analysis of biological and chemical compounds. Chromatography is also applied as a preparative technology on an industrial scale. Mixtures containing e.g. sugars, amino acids or proteins can be purified based on characteristics such as size and shape, total charge, hydrophobic groups present on the surface, and binding \ capacity with the stationary phase. To explain it in simple terms: ¨You have made a beautiful drawing, a glass of water goes over it. The water takes the colors with it. One color moves at a different pace than the other. So separation takes place. This principle we apply to purify a.o. proteins and amino acids¨, says René Nanninga.  


Chromatographic separation technology is still an underestimated technology, according to Nanninga, but it really has advantages. Especially in the trend to move to bio-based chemicals and plant-based ingredients components need to be captured from aqueous mixtures. Nanninga; ¨Chromatography allows you to do separations that you cannot do with other technologies. It is a mild technology: heating and cooling, like with distillation or crystallization is not necessary. It is energy friendly. The use of chemicals is limited. In a mild way we can pull mixtures apart. The process provides qualitative advantages, and can be cost-effective for certain mixtures. For the product, it is possible to determine fairly precisely what the target is. But, you will always have to look closely at what feed material you start with; what quality of product do I need to make? Then you check whether the technology is suitable.´


It sounds good, chromatographic separation technology. Although the technique has been around for about 30 years, it appears to be relatively unknown in certain industries. Unfortunately. Nanninga: “That is why I want to talk about this technology at the event. To create awareness, to inform about the developments in this technology and the applications, to demonstrate it can be cost effective and easy to operate.”

Sustainable industry

Finally, what I would like to add, says Nanninga, ‘is that we want to contribute to the transition to a sustainable industry. Continuous chromatographic separation technology is a valuable building block in that transition. Together we have to ensure that our planet remains habitable.’

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