Sometimes foam is indispensable: in a luxury hot bath for example, or topping a cool glass of beer. But ask any factory plant manager about foam, and the reaction will be a lot different. Whether the process involves food or biogas, foam is a nuisance in production and can even lead to downtime. No wonder so many companies use additives to prevent foaming.
Roderick van de Weg, Sales Engineer at Van Meeuwen Chemicals, is a specialist in anti-foam additives. He does not only deal with industrial uses: “Anti-foam products are also important in agriculture, for example. Livestock farmers who keep cows or pigs know all about the problem of foaming in the manure pits beneath the stalls. It can become so bad that it rises above the grates. This is not only dirty, it also reduces the efficiency of such a pit.” Other sectors also face their own problems with foam formation. Fortunately, there is a solution for all these challenges. Anti-foam additives contain biological, organic or inorganic compounds, such as vegetable oils, modified oils or polydimethylsiloxane. Products with long names which give an idea about the diversity of solutions available. “We supply anti-foam products to two of the three largest vegetable processors in the Netherlands, among others,” says Van de Weg. During transportation, processing, and cutting of vegetables, a lot of protein and starch is released into the water used in these processes. Using an anti-foam agent keeps foam formation under control and vegetables looking good. Safety in the workplace is another area where anti-foam agents can play a role. “Foam on the floor can be slippery and contaminate machines,” explains Van de Weg, “so it is not good for health & safety. Sometimes, the nuisance caused is so great, that the production process has to be shut down, with all the consequences and costs that implies.”