Development of advanced models of mass and heat transfer in electroporated plant tissues of importance to food processing industry (2019-2021)

Development of advanced models of mass and heat transfer in electroporated plant tissues of importance to food processing industry (2019-2021)
Head: Assist. Samo Mahnič-Kalamiza, PhD, Faculty of Electrical Engineering, University of Ljubljana
Partner: /
Financing: Slovenian Research Agency (ARRS)
Code: Z7-1886

 

Research project funded by the Slovenian Research Agency.

Member of University of Ljubljana

University of Ljubljana, Faculty of Electrical Engineering

Code
Z7-1886
Project
Development of advanced models of mass and heat transfer in electroporated plant tissues of importance to food processing industry
Period
01.07.2018 - 30.06.2021
Amount of financing
1 FTE
Head

Asist. Samo Mahnič-Kalamiza, PhD

Research activity
Food Processing
Research Organisation

University of Ljubljana, Faculty of Electrical Engineering

Abstract

An electric field of a sufficient strength causes an increase in electrical conductivity and permeability of the cell membrane – also for molecules for which normally the membrane has low permeability. This phenomenon, known as electroporation, electropermeabilization, or pulsed electric field (PEF) treatment, has been attributed to the creation of aqueous pores in the lipid bilayer.

Since improving mass transport is the goal in many electroporation applications, understanding phenomena related to electroporation in tissues is of paramount importance. We may aim at enhancing the selective recovery/extraction of compounds or juices from plant cells, improving the rate of dehydration (i.e. drying), improving the delivery of solutes (salts, sugars, etc.) into target tissues, etc. Applications are numerous and their list ever expanding. The potential socio-economic benefits of integrating electroporation into processes in food industry and environmental engineering are vast and carry an enormous potential for developing cost- and energy-efficient methods of waste/by-product valorization, biofuel production, food safety assurance, and fit perfectly within the modern paradigm of green circular economy. Thus, this interdisciplinary project fits perfectly within the framework of the societal objective “FACCE Agriculture, Food Security and Climate Change”.

Comprehensive and detailed mathematical models are important theoretical frameworks that enable us to both verify or check our knowledge and understanding of the phenomenon, and design optimized treatment processes based on the phenomenon under study, leading to an effective and efficient use of resources. Recently, the project Proposer published a number of articles introducing a “dual-porosity” approach to modelling mass transport in electroporated tissues. This is the first time the dual-porosity theory has been developed for the case of electroporated (plant) tissue, both for mass transport and heat transfer. The dual-porosity model enables coupling the effects of electroporation on the membrane of individual cells in tissue to the resulting transmembrane mass transport and mass transport in the extracellular matrix, which is a novel approach.

The proposed post-doctoral research project has been conceived with the purpose of taking the dual-porosity model to the next developmental stage, and to apply it in practice to the problem of treating food materials by electroporation. The ultimate objective is to arrive at a comprehensive model of plant tissue electroporation that will represent a new level in scientific understanding of the effects of electroporation to mass transport and heat transfer in electroporated tissues, which will be achieved through realization of work as outlined by the four Work Packages of the project. These are: WP I: Validation and verification of the mass/heat transfer models; WP II: Evaluation of the importance of electrokinetic mechanisms to mass transport; WP III: Evaluation of the importance of turgor pressure; and WP IV: Coupling the mass transport /heat transfer models with models of electric field and conductivity distribution in tissue.

Each of the proposed extensions and elaborations of the modelling paradigm resulting from the implementation of Work Packages I – IV of the proposed project is in itself capable of opening up numerous new research directions, since the phenomena under consideration have yet to be approached from the perspective of mechanistic modelling. Moreover, the proposed research has the potential to reach outside the boundaries of the food processing domain, resulting in transfer of knowledge to other domains of electroporation, such as back into biomedicine. New insights brought about by the proposed project could thus be of broader interest and have greater-than-foreseen implications for the fields of electroporation research and food processing in general.

Researchers

Link to SICRIS will be published once the project is available on SICRIS.

The phases of the project and their realization

WP I: Validation and verification of the mass/heat transfer models. This will be performed using different raw plant-based food materials of industrial interest (e.g. carrots, apple fruits, potato tubers … as they have very different structural properties), and identification of importance of individual model parameters, leading to an eventual simplification of models (if necessary).

WP II: Evaluation of the importance of electrokinetic mechanisms to mass transport. This importance will be elucidated by means of experimental work and mathematical modelling, and if a particular mechanism (e.g. electroosmosis, electrophoresis, …) will be found to be important, these effects will be incorporated into the existing model of post-electroporation mass transport to develop a more comprehensive model.

WP III: Evaluation of the importance of turgor pressure. The effect of turgor pressure relaxation (turgor pressure loss) due to electroporation causing expulsion of liquid from plant tissue and changes in tissue textural properties will be evaluated and quantified for different plant tissues of industrial importance (turgor pressure loss is of particular industrial interest).

WP IV: Coupling the mass transport /heat transfer models with models of electric field and conductivity distribution in tissue. A spatio-temporal evolution of these distributions will be coupled with the models of mass transport and heat transfer to render the models less phenomenological in nature. This will be accomplished by developing and validating models of conductivity distribution in tissue; not only mathematical modelling but also experimental MRI-based techniques will be used for these purposes.

The ultimate objective is to arrive at a comprehensive model of plant tissue electroporation that will represent a new level in scientific understanding of the effects of electroporation to mass transport and heat transfer in electroporated tissues.

Citations for bibliographic records

Link to SICRIS will be published once the project is available on SICRIS.

Development of advanced models of mass and heat transfer in electroporated plant tissues of importance to food processing industry (2019-2021)
Head: Assist. Samo Mahnič-Kalamiza, PhD, Faculty of Electrical Engineering, University of Ljubljana
Partner: /
Financing: Slovenian Research Agency (ARRS)
Code: Z7-1886

 

Research project funded by the Slovenian Research Agency.