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Pulsed Electric Field technology: A novel application for potato processing

Pulsed Electric Field technology (PEF) enables the development of innovative, cost-effective, and sustainable processing concepts for the manufacturing of French fries, crisps and other potato specialities. PEF treatment is already being applied in the production of French fries on an industrial scale around the world and offers a host of benefits and possibilities.

PEF technology has also been tested and validated for other applications such as fresh fruit juices, tomato processing, olive oil and the production of red wine.

PEF is a non-thermal technology for food processing based on the application of repetitive, short electric field pulses to the food. This creates miniscule holes in membranes of the plant cells, which makes the cells porous and facilitates transport of water and other valuable compounds.

A French fry cut potato after PEF treatment is less rigid than an untreated potato

New possibilities

This technology induces poration of membranes of potato cells, leading to cell disintegration. A typical PEF system for potato processing consists of a high voltage pulse generator and a treatment chamber through which the potatoes flow in water. In the treatment chamber the high voltage pulses are applied.

In the potato industry, PEF technology results in improved cut quality: a softer texture facilitates French fries cutting. This results in less breakage and shattering, producing longer thin French fries from large potatoes.

Improved cut quality gives the French fries a smoother surface which then reduces oil absorption during frying. French fries are long because the potatoes break less during processing, post cutting. Improved cutting of crisps results in smoother surfaces and less coloration.

The subsequent reduced oil uptake and water retention leads to crunchier crisps. In potato mash production, pulsed electric field processing evens out the structural variations in potatoes, resulting in a large reduction of the number and size of lumps and a smoother mash for a better bite.

New cuts, shapes and French fries and crisps made from different vegetables are among the possibilities.  Tough and inconsistent raw materials like sweet potato, turnip and beet root become easily processable with PEF.

French fries cutting at optimum product texture results in less breakage and shattering, producing longer thin French fries. A French fry cut potato after PEF is much less rigid than an untreated potato.

Efficiency

Usage of PEF results in higher yields, while also less energy is needed due to the replacement of the thermal pre-treatment, continuous operability, short processing times, and waste-free processing.

Additionally, PEF treatment enables substantial water savings. A potato processor who implemented PEF technology said: “The implementation of PEF has enabled us to save eight percent of our fresh water usage, or 70 million litres per year, which is the equivalent of roughly 28 Olympic sized swimming pools.” 

Impact of Pulsemaster PEF on French fries production: 2,0 % increase of product yield

About Pulsemaster

The Dutch-German company combines years of unique experience with pulsed power technology. Pulsemaster design, develop and build a range of robust, industrial PEF systems. The production facility is located in Bladel, The Netherlands. Next year, a new production facility will be inaugurated to support further growth. In Lohne (Oldenburg), in Lower Saxony, Pulsemaster has an office for the German market at its disposal. Pulsemaster offer global support and aspires to further growth and rapidly developing export activities worldwide.

Research Worldwide

Agriculture and Agri-Food Canadian research institutes are doing research and product development on PEF systems for the benefit of the Canadian and global food industry. A Pulsemaster Solidus pilot-scale batch PEF system is used for research on solids like potatoes, onions, fruits. A Pulsemaster Liquidus continuous pilot-scale PEF system is used for research on liquids like fresh fruit juices.

Costs and capacities

On a commercial scale, the total processing costs are typically 1 Euro/ton (0.1 Eurocent per kg / 0.056 US Dollarcent per lb). Treatment capacities of Pulsemaster PEF equipment vary from 1 to 90 tons (2,200 lbs-198,000 lbs) per hour for cell disintegration of potatoes with practically no size limitations. Today Pulsemaster’s largest industrial sized PEF equipment can process to up 90 tons (198.000 lbs) per hour in one, broader transport system executed with multiple treatment chambers, to meet the growing demand for higher input capacities in the potato industry. Overall, the system results in higher output of French fries, reduced investment costs and higher product quality. 

Future plans

Pulsemaster is continuously developing commercial scale PEF systems. Future applications of PEF in potato industry may include enhanced blanching, drying processes and wastewater treatment. The research targets to increase yields and reduce costs of processes like microbial inactivation, drying, osmotic treatment, freezing, extraction and diffusion processes, show the tremendous potential of this emerging technique beyond the examples presented in this article. Contact Mark de Boevere or visit www.pulsemaster.us for more information. 

For further information, please contact Mark de Boevere, Managing Director of Pulsemaster BV, Bladel, The Netherlands: tel. +31 497 820300. Mark can be reached at mark.deboevere@pulsemaster.us

This article was published in Issue 1-2019 of the Global Potato News magazine. You will find it on p22 here 

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