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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 it can also be used to enhance product quality and food production processes.

The terms pulsed electric field processing and electroporation both describe the same technique. PEF induces poration of cell membranes, hence the term ‘electroporation’. Another term used in this context is ‘permeabilization’. PEF technology can make the cell membranes of microorganisms, plant, or animal tissue permeable. This electroporation process is suitable for a broad range of food processes and bioprocesses, utilizing low energy levels.

Increased Permeability of Cell Membranes

Exposing biological cells to a sufficiently strong external electric field results in transiently or permanently increased permeability of cell membranes, a process known as ‘electroporation’. Electroporation is effective on all cell types, including animal, plant, and microorganism cells, without the addition of viral or chemical compounds. Therefore, electroporation is considered a universal method and a platform technology.

Food and Biomass Processing

Electroporation is currently employed in food and biomass processing. Food preservation through electroporation maintains color, flavor, and antioxidant levels while destroying microorganisms. Recently, the extraction of intracellular components from plants and cryopreservation using electroporation have been demonstrated.

New Applications of Pulsed Electric Field (PEF) Technology

Electroporation shows potential in the pretreatment of sludge and other substrates, leading to increased biogas production. Additional applications include water treatment, extraction of oil from algae, and sugar from sugar beets, among other emerging uses.

Concrete actions

Concrete actions continue to emerge in biotechnology, such as extraction from algae and other cell cultures, improvement of industrial processes, environmental preservation like wastewater treatment, biogas production, energy harvest from biomass, and food processing. These include extending the shelf life of food, developing novel foods, and obtaining new ingredients.

Challenges for Electroporation Use in the Food Processing Industry

In food processing, optimization for the highest energy efficiency and low operation and investment costs is necessary for the further development of PEF technology.

Pulsemaster

Mark de Boevere, MD of Pulsemaster, states, “We are pleased that 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 the 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 at Campden BRI, explains, “During PEF processing, short high-voltage pulses are applied, inducing pores in cell membranes. At low field strengths (<10 kV/cm), pores can form in the cells of both liquid and bulk food products, offering many potential benefits to improve processes or product quality. These include:

  • Tissue softening: Reduces the cutting force required for food products like potatoes, sugar beet, and carrots. Reductions of up to 60% have been shown for some products.
  • Extraction: Enhances the rupturing of plant cells to improve the extraction and yield of juices, proteins, nutrients, vitamins, and natural colors.
  • Drying: Improves mass transport of liquids for better drying of products.
  • Brining and marinating of meat products: Enhances diffusion, reducing time and improving the quality of cooked meat products such as water holding capacity.
  • Meat tenderization: Releases enzymes, and protein breakdown can improve tenderization and maturation of meat.
  • Reduced fat uptake: Decreases 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, please get in touch.”

Danny Bayliss: +44(0)1386 842130 danny.bayliss@campdenbri.co.uk

More information:

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