Agglomeration vs. Microencapsulation – What’s the Difference?
We continue to get questions pertaining to whether our technology can be used to agglomerate certain ingredients. We listen intently for what functionality the product developer may be interested in and use the time to create an understanding regarding the difference between agglomeration and microencapsulation. Agglomeration is not microencapsulation. Similarly, spray drying is not microencapsulation even though the industry may use them interchangeably. They are different.
Agglomeration is a process for getting smaller particles to adhere or stick to each other to form bigger conglomerates/granules or agglomerates. See figure below. Agglomeration is more associated with spray drying. Generally, the process of any type of agglomeration involves bringing independent particles into contact with each other or to enhance or control particle adhesion.
Agglomeration involves the gluing together of multiple particles with ridges that allow water to flow through. After the agglomeration, the agglomerated powder usually needs to be re-dried and cooled. The process is not typically controllable. Agglomerated or spray dried ingredients are instantly soluble in hot and/or cold water and typically non dusty. Agglomeration is the process that is used to produce beverages such as Milo, Ovaltine and hot chocolate preparations as well as coffee, to name a few. It is also the process that is used to produce some of the instantized branched chain amino acids (BCAAs)
True microencapsulation on the hand, involves coating of individual particles (see illustration and pictures below) with a coating the size of the human hair and get each coated particle to deliver a required functionality. The finished microencapsulated ingredient particles are free flowing, are not porous, and are very robust. Release can be triggered by moisture, temperature, pH, or mechanical shear.
Microencapsulation regulates, shields, and delivers reliably and consistently. Microencapsulation is linked with versatility. It is used to broaden the scope of application to the food processing industries such as bakery confection, meat products, as well as feed, pet food processing industries, in addition to delivering benefits to the dietary supplements industry in terms of overcoming interactions, preventing pre-reactions, extending shelf life, making ingredients more stable and masking taste and off odors. Microencapsulation enables the conception of new products and improves existing ones. Microencapsulation can be used as a delivery system to get ingredients to travel through the harsh conditions of the gastrointestinal tract and to be released where they have their most benefits.