The Freeze Drying Process Freeze Drying (Lyophilization) is a process whereby a product is dried under low temperature and vacuum. The water in the sample is first frozen to a solid and then removed directly by turning the ice into vapor. This is done under vacuum and without having to pass through the liquid phase. The unique advantage of Freeze Drying is that the samples are kept at low temperatures and remain frozen during the entire drying process, thereby preserving thermo labile components (proteins, flavors, colors), all while maintaining the original shape and size.
The dried product can then be stored for long periods without the risk of changing composition or being infected by microorganisms, which is all made possible due to the lack of water. In other words, Freeze Drying is a dehydration technique. The aspect of the Freeze Drying process that makes it different from other dehydration techniques, is that dehydration takes place while the product is in a frozen state and under a vacuum. These conditions stabilize the product, minimizing the effects of oxidation and other degradation processes. Freeze Drying has become an accepted method of processing heat sensitive products that require long term storage at temperatures above freezing.
Freeze Drying is widely used in the pharmaceutical- as well as other industries and is one of the most expensive unit operations due to the high energy consumption. Conservative Freeze Drying cycles result in long processing times, which will increase the cost of production. Longer lyophilization cycles are not considered optimal, as they often turn out less robust and have an increased potential for equipment failure.
Freeze Drying cycles should be optimized to minimize drying time without adversely affecting product quality. The Freeze Drying process was developed as a commercial technique that enabled serum to be rendered chemically stable and viable without having to be refrigerated.
The process was applied to penicillin, and became recognized as an important scientific technique for the preservation of biologicals. Freeze Drying is also used as a preservation or processing technique for a wide variety of products such as pharmaceuticals, diagnostic kits, restoration of water damaged documents, sludge from rivers prepared for hydrocarbon analysis, ceramics, viral or bacterial cultures, tissues prepared for analysis, production of synthetic skins and the restoration of historic/ reclaimed artifacts.
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