A comparison of biofilm development on stainless steel and modified surface (Ni-P-PTEF) plate heat exchangers during a 17h milk pasteurization run

Document Type


Publication Date



Journal of Dairy Science








biofilm; stainless steel; plate heat exchanger; pasteurization; cleaning


Flow of milk through the plate heat exchanger (PHE) results in denaturation of proteins, resulting in fouling. This also accelerates bacterial adhesion on the PHE surface, eventually leading to the development of biofilms. During prolonged processing, these biofilms result in shedding of bacteria and cross-contaminate the milk being processed, thereby limiting the duration of production runs. Altering the surface properties of PHE, such as surface energy and hydrophobicity, could be an effective approach to reduce biofouling. This study was conducted to compare the extent of biofouling on native stainless steel (SS) and modified-surface [Ni-P-polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE)] PHE during the pasteurization of raw milk for an uninterrupted processing run of 17 h. For microbial studies, raw and pasteurized milk samples were aseptically collected from inlets and outlets of both PHE at various time intervals to examine shedding of bacteria in the milk. At the end of the run, 3M quick swabs (3M, St. Paul, MN) and ATP swabs (Charm Sciences Inc., Lawrence, MA) were used to sample plates from different sections of the pasteurizers (regeneration, heating, and cooling) for biofilm screening and to estimate the efficiency of cleaning in place, respectively. The data were tested for ANOVA, and means were compared. Modified PHE experienced lower mesophilic and thermophilic bacterial attachment and biofilm formation (average log 1.0 and 0.99 cfu/cm2, respectively) in the regenerative section of the pasteurizer compared with SS PHE (average log 1.49 and 1.47, respectively). Similarly, higher relative light units were observed for SS PHE compared with the modified PHE, illustrating the presence of more organic matter on the surface of SS PHE at the end of the run. In addition, at h 17, milk collected from the outlet of SS PHE showed plate counts of 5.44 cfu/cm2, which were significantly higher than those for pasteurized milk collected from modified PHE (4.12 log cfu/cm2). This provided further evidence in favor of the modified PHE achieving better microbial quality of pasteurized milk in long process runs. Moreover, because cleaning SS PHE involves an acid treatment step, whereas an alkali treatment step is sufficient for the modified-surface PHE, use of the latter is both cost and time effective, making it a better surface for thermal processing of milk and other fluid dairy products.