A homogenizer is a machine that takes a substance and makes it a uniform consistency and helps reduce separation. While these machines have a wide range of scientific and research uses, the place most people encounter them is in food manufacturing. Most homogenizers use a high-pressure system to mix the substances, particularly in the food industry. Other methods exist that range from sonic bursts to simple industrial blenders.
People will use a homogenizer to reduce the variance in a substance. This machine makes a mixture with a uniform constancy. Essentially, it makes any random section of the substance exactly the same as any other section.
This process is very useful in some circumstances. One of the most common uses for a homogenizer is in the food industry. Buyers want to know what to expect when they buy prepackaged food. If a particular food tasted one way the first time, they will expect it to taste that way every time.
In order to keep this level of consistency, the materials used to make food are mixed in very large batches. After the material is mixed, it is processed by a homogenizer to make sure the ingredients are all combined evenly. These large, homogenized batches remove any variation in the substance and make the food the same every time.
This has been the standard in the milk industry for years. A large batch of milk is collected in a tank. Since the milk comes from a large number of animals, some areas of the tank will have a slightly different makeup. For instance, one area may have a high fat content while another may have very little. The milk is mixed and then forced through a series of very small holes. This pressure forces the milk from different areas of the tank to mix completely, making a homogeneous mixture.
Outside of food preparation, a homogenizer is less common. Certain scientific fields use these machines for research. They take a large number of samples and homogenize them to create a single aggregate sample. This one sample will be representative of the entire group, even though no single sample is exactly like it. This is particularly common in medical and genetic research.
The majority of homogenizers use high pressure to force materials to mix, but there are alternatives. For a more course mixture, some systems use machines that are basically just large blenders. While not as comprehensive as other methods, these machines form a combined substance that is basically homogenous. Another method for difficult or solid substances uses bead mills. These machines crush the material down to such small particles that they naturally mix.