Homogenizing Valve Design

One consequence of understanding the mechanism of homogenization is the ability to improve the efficiency of homogenization. The geometry of the homogenizing valve is important in regard to the quality of the finished product. Gaulin realized this, and he experimented with different valve designs at the turn of the century (1). The objective of changing valve designs is to find one that gives the best product possible at the lowest pressure (19). Some basic designs include the plug valve (Fig. 3), the piloted valve, and a grooved valve. The piloted valve has a guide on the valve that fits into the seat to align the two. The grooved valve has concentric grooves on the valve and seat. These grooves are machined so that the peaks on the valve fit into the grooves on the seat. Different configurations of these grooves have been tried over the years. Variations of the plug and piloted valve include a knife edge on the seat having a short land or travel distance, replaceable screens on the faces of the valve and seat, and a cone-shaped valve fitting into a hollowed seat. There is even a valve consisting of a tightly compressed wire bundle through which the product flows. For large flow rates, the Micro-GapĀ® valve is used, and this valve consists of stacked valve plates that split the flow into equal parts for optimization of homogenization (19,20). These designs seek to make efficient use of the available homogenization energy. Along with the geometry of the valves it is important to consider the size of the valves, because as the flow rate increases, valve size also increases to maintain efficient homogenization. A laboratory homogenizer operating at 114 L (30 gal) per hour may have a valve diameter of 9.53 mm (0.375 in), while a production-size homogenizer operating at 15,142 L (4,000 gal) per hour might have a valve diameter of 76.2 mm (3 in). A homogenizer at 37,854 L (10,000 gal) per hour with a Micro-GapĀ® valve would have the equivalent diameter (by summing the stacked valves) of a valve 787.4 mm (31 in) across. Of course, as the size of the homogenizing valve increases, the required actuating force becomes larger and this must be considered when homogenizing valves are designed.

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