APPLICATION OF TEMPERATURE-DEPENDENT THERMAL PROPERTIES IN FOOD THERMAL PROCESS SIMULATION AND SELECTION OF PRODUCT FORMULATION
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Mathematical modeling of heat transfer is a common method utilized in designing thermal processes for food, modeling degradation kinetics of microorganisms and nutrients, designing food processing equipment as well as for process optimization and for ensuring scale-up feasibility of a product. It is essential to have all the necessary components for modeling including the geometry, boundary conditions, initial temperature, and the temperature-dependent thermal properties. Getting temperature-dependent thermal properties of food product is difficult due to the lack of effective and efficient devices or techniques. To show the influence of temperature-dependent thermal properties, retort processing of potato soup was simulated using both temperature-dependent (dynamic) and fixed thermal properties. Three methods, TPCell, Choi-Okos predictive model and KD2 Pro, were used to determine the thermal conductivity at 25°C and 120°C for comparison. The proximate composition of the sample was determined for prediction of thermal properties with the Choi-Okos model. The accuracy of simulation was evaluated based on the temperature at the cold spot and corresponding sterilization value. Results suggested that using temperature-dependent thermal properties in heat transfer modeling increased the accuracy of the simulation. Simulation performed with temperature-dependent properties obtained from TPCell matched very closely with experimental heat penetration data. Additionally, the sensitivity of temperature-dependent thermal properties obtained from TPCell in detecting variation in product formulation was evaluated. Four variations of potato soup were prepared to compare their respective lethality value. Thermal conductivity, specific heat capacity and density of the potato soups were measured, and simulation was performed using the measured thermal properties and a scheduled process as boundary conditions. Thermal properties of food product changed with the formulation which affected the processing time to achieve minimum lethality value. A significant difference in thermal conductivities was seen for these potato soups causing the scheduled process to be only suitable for thermal processing of some formulations while others would be undercooked that could lead to food safety risk. Since the thermal conductivity measurements were sensitive in detecting the difference in the formulation, it can be used as a tool to select a formulation that can best suit the processing conditions of the heat penetration tests. The technique described can be used for any thermal processes in the food industry including pasteurization, retort, and aseptic processing. This application will be beneficial for the industry to pre-screen the iterations and only select formulation that suits the scheduled process for successful heat penetration trials and reduce trial costs.