PERFORMANCE OF NOVEL PORTABLE SOLAR DRYING TECHNOLOGIES FOR SMALL AND MID-SIZE GROWERS OF SPECIALTY CROPS UNDER INDIANA WEATHER CONDITIONS

2019-12-20T13:25:17Z (GMT) by Diana M Ramirez Gutierrez
The overall goal of this thesis was to study the performance of two related portable multipurpose solar dryers, DehytrayTM and DehymeleonTM, in comparison to open-air sun drying by drying tomatoes, apples and mint under West Lafayette, Indiana weather conditions. Thin layer drying tests were conducted on tomato slices, apples slices and mint leaves, with three temperatures [24°C (75°F), 35°C (95°F) and 54 °C (130°F)], and an airflow velocity of 1 m/s to determine the drying kinetics of these products during diurnal drying cycles typical for solar and/or open-air sun drying. Subsequently, field drying tests were conducted for tomatoes slices, apples slices and mint leaves with the two solar drying technologies (DehymeleonTM and DehytrayTM) and open-air sun drying using uncovered Dehytrays as the control. The average temperatures achieved for these technologies were 45°C (113°F), 60°C (140 °F) and 27°C (80.6 °F) for the DehymeleonTM, DehytrayTM and open-air sun drying, respectively. Moisture diffusivity were in the order of 10-4 to 10-9 (m2/s) for the different methods, depending directly on the product, temperatures and air flow inside the drying chamber.

Quality attributes (color, vitamin C and microbial growth) were measured before and after the field drying tests. Color difference (ΔE) for DehymeleonTM solar dryer showed the least variation compared with the fresh products. However, for the DehytrayTM ΔE increased due to the impact of its higher temperature and direct sunlight exposure that led to Maillard reactions and caramelization in the case of tomatoes and apples slices. Additionally, vitamin C (Ascorbic acid) content for tomatoes and apples slices was affected for the high ranges of temperatures reached inside the Dehytray™. Denaturing of vitamin C was less observed for DehymeleonTM, maintaining values of 166 mg/100 g dm for tomatoes, and 104.2mg/100g for apples slices. There was no significant difference (α = 0.05) in the microbial growth for the DehytrayTM and open-air drying compared to the fresh product, however, there was significant difference for the DehymeleonTM when drying tomatoes and apples slices, without up one log reduction on the original microbial population. In the case of mint, DehymeleonTM had a 2.3 log reduction, which is similar to L-lactic acid sanitizer achieved by another study in the literature, compared with 0.4 log obtained by the DehytrayTM and 0.47 log obtained by open-air sun drying. The differences in microbial growth were observed because the temperatures inside the drying chamber of the DehymeleonTM was low and product moisture content was above the safe equilibrium moisture content (EMC) for both tomatoes and apples during the early critical hours at the onset of the drying process, which was favorable to mold growth. The lack of a fan to intermittently or constantly flush out humid air released from the crop dried in the DehytrayTM negatively affected its performance. The insufficient airflow in the drying chamber of the DehymeleonTM and its inability to achieve the high temperatures observed in the DehytrayTM negatively affected its performance. Both solar dryers, DehymeleonTM and DehytrayTM achieved high hygienic condition during drying due to their enclosed chambers than protected the crop from contaminant in the environments. Their portability and design for large-scale manufacturing and deployment are a positive development that would be helpful to small and mid-size growers, as well as households (home gardens). Areas for further research were highlighted.