Abstract: Microfiltration (MF) membranes with pore sizes of 200 and 450 nm and ultrafiltration (UF) membranes with molecular weight cut off of 50, 100, and 500 kDa were assessed for their ability to eliminate nonprotein substances from okara protein extract in a laboratory cross-flow membrane system. Both MF and UF improved the protein content of okara extract to a similar extent from approximately 68% to approximately 81% owing to the presence of protein in the feed leading to the formation of dynamic layer controlling the performance rather than the actual pore size of membranes. Although normalized flux in MF-450 (117 LMH/MPa) was close to UF-500 (118 LMH/MPa), the latter was selected based on higher average flux (47 LMH) offering the advantage of reduced processing time. Membrane processing of soy extract improved the protein content from 62% to 85% much closer to the target value. However, the final protein content in okara (approximately 80%) did not reach the target value (90%) owing to the greater presence of soluble fibers that were retained by the membrane. Solubility curve of membrane okara protein concentrate (MOPC) showed lower solubility than soy protein concentrate and a commercial isolate in the entire pH range. However, water absorption and fat-binding capacities of MOPC were either superior or comparable while emulsifying properties were in accordance with its solubility. The results of this study showed that okara protein concentrate (80%) could be produced using membrane technology without loss of any true proteins, thus offering value addition to okara, hitherto underutilized.
Practical Application: Okara, a byproduct obtained during processing soybean for soymilk, is either underutilized or unutilized in spite of the fact that its protein quality is as good as that of soy milk and tofu. Membrane-processed protein products have been shown to posses superior functional properties compared to conventionally produced protein products. However, the potential of membrane technology has not been exploited for the recovery of okara protein. Our study showed that protein content of okara extract could be improved from approximately 68% to approximately 81% without losing any true proteins in the process.