Two and Three Stage Spray Drying With a Fluidized Bed

Principles of Fluid Beds

Air is blown up through a wire mesh belt on porous plate that supports and conveys the product. A slight vibration motion is imparted to the food particles. When the air velocity is increased to the point where it just exceeds the velocity of free fall (gravity) of the particles, fluidization occurs. The dancing/boiling motion subdivides the product and provides intimate contact of each particle with the air, but keeps clusters from forming.

Diagram of a fluid bed

With products that are particularly difficult to fluidize, a vibrating motion of the drier itself is used to aid fluidization; it is called vibro-fluidizer which is on springs. The fluidized solid particles then behave in an analogous manner to a liquid., i.e. they can be conveyed. Air velocities will vary with particle size and density, but are in the range of 0.3 - 0.75 m/s. They can be used not only for drying but also for cooling. If the velocity is too high, the particles will be carried away in the gas stream, therefore, gravitational forces need to be only slightly exceeded.

Two- and three-stage drying processes

 In standard, single stage spray drying, the rate of evaporation is particularly high in the first part of the process, and it gradually decreases because of the falling moisture content of the particle surfaces. In order to complete the drying in one stage, a relatively high outlet temperature is required during the final drying phase. Of course the outlet temperature is reflective of the particle temperature and thus heat damage .

Consequently the two stage drying process was introduced which proved to be superior to the traditional single stage drying in terms of product quality and cost of production.

The two stage drier consists of a spray drier with an external vibrating fluid bed placed below the drying chamber. The product can be removed from the drying chamber with a higher moisture content, and the final drying takes place in the external fluid bed where the residence time of the product is longer and the temperature of the drying air lower than in the spray dryer.

This principle forms the basis of the development of the three stage drier. The second stage is a fluid bed built into the cone of the spray drying chamber. Thus it is possible to achieve an even higher moisture content in the first drying stage and a lower outlet air temperature from the spray drier. This fluid bed is called the integrated fluid bed. The inlet air temperature can be raised resulting in a larger temperature difference and improved efficiency in the drying process. The exhaust heat from the chamber is used to preheat the feed stream. The third stage is again the external fluid bed, which can be static or vibrating, for final drying and/or cooling the powder. The results are as follows:

  • higher quality powders with much better rehydrating properties directly from the drier
  • lower energy consumption
  • increased range of products which can be spray dried i.e., non density, non hygroscopic
  • smaller space requirements