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Pulsed Electric Field PEF

Mark de Boevere

Pulsed electric field PEF – the potential in food processing

  • PEF

Pulsed electric field (PEF) processing is a well known non-thermal food preservation technique, but did you know it can also be used to improve product quality and food production processes?

Pulsed electric field processing and electroporation are both used to describe the same technique. The pulsed electric field induces poration of cell membranes – that is where the word electroporation comes from. Permeabilization is another term used in this context. The cell membranes of microorganisms, plant or animal tissue can be made permeable by using PEF technology. This process of electroporation is suitable for use in a broad range of food processes and bioprocesses using low levels of energy.

Increased permeability of cell membranes

Exposure of biological cells to a sufficiently strong external electric field results in transiently or permanently increased permeability of cell membranes, referred to as ‘electroporation’. Since all types of cells like animal, plant and microorganism can be effectively electroporated, without addition of viral or chemical compounds, electroporation is considered to be a universal method and a platform technology.

Food and biomass processing

Electroporation is currently used in food and biomass processing. Preservation of food by electroporation is used to maintain color, flavor and levels of antioxidants, while destroying microorganisms. Recently, extraction of intracellular components from plants as well as cryopreservation using electroporation have been demonstrated.

New applications of pulsed electric field PEF-technology

Electroporation has shown potential in pretreatment of sludge and other substrates, leading to increased biogas production. Other applications, such as water treatment, extraction of oil from algae and of sugar from sugar beets are just a few of the foreseeable new applications.

Concrete actions

Concrete action will continue to arise in biotechnology like extraction from algae and other cell cultures, improvement of industrial processes, environment preservation like wastewater treatment, biogas production, energy harvest from biomass and food processing like extending shelf life of food, development of novel foods and obtaining new ingredients.

Challenges for use of electroporation in food processing industry

In food processing optimization toward highest energy efficiency and low operation and investment costs is required to allow for further development of PEF-technology.


Mark de Boevere, MD of Pulsemaster: “We are pleased Campden BRI currently has a Pulsemaster Solidus PEF pilot-scale batch system on site for PEF research and private contract services. Campden BRI has over 2400 member companies in 75 different countries. We welcome contact from commercial companies and science sector, interested in exploring specific applications of PEF technology for science based precision processing of healthy, structured and tasteful foods and beverages.”

Campden BRI

Dr Danny Bayliss, New Technology specialist of Campden BRI: “During PEF processing, short high voltage pulses are applied which induce pores in cell membranes. At low field strengths (<10 kV/cm) pores can be formed in the cells of both liquid and bulk food products. This offers many potential benefits to help improve processes or product quality including:

  • Tissue softening – reduces the cutting force required for food products, such as potatoes, sugar beet and carrots. Reductions of up to 60% have been shown for some products
  • Extraction – increased rupturing of plant cells to improve the extraction and yield of juices, proteins, nutrients, vitamins and natural colours
  • Drying – improves mass transport of liquids for better drying of products
  • Brining and marinating of meat products – better diffusion, reducing time and improving the quality of the cook meat products such as water holding capacity
  • Meat tenderisation – releases enzymes and protein breakdown can improve tenderisation and maturation of meat
  • Reduced fat uptake – reduces oil uptake during frying of vegetable based products

I am excited that we are installing new pulsed electric field equipment in our pilot plant. The Pulsemaster Solidus system will be available for confidential trials during April and May. If you are interested in exploring the potential of PEF technology for your applications then please get in touch.”

Danny Bayliss: +44(0)1386 842130

More information:

PEF-technology on website Campden BRI
PEF products: beverages, vegetable products, fruit products
PEF Pulsemaster: food preservation, product and process improvement

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