Research of the Food Process Engineering Group

We explore new principles for preparing foods and food ingredients. The key characteristic of foods is that they (usually) are very complex, multiphase systems, incorporating many if not hundreds of ingredients and components.

By understanding the interactions between various phases or components, one can induce the formation of a specific structure, or isolate the valuable components. From this, we then set to conceive a process configuration that exploits the found phenomena, such that a process is developed that will be much more efficient (in terms of raw materials, utilities or waste generation), and/or will result in foods with a much better combination of taste and nutrition.

We combine seven aspects in our research:

  1. Computer-aided Engineering. In all research we employ a number of computer simulation methods, with the emphasis of  methods. This gives us the possibility to check our hypotheses and see whether a specific mechanism indeed leads to a specific effect.
  2. Enzyme Reactions and Bio-Separations. We focus here on non-conventional conditions, such as enzymatic modification and bioaffinity separation in microstructured systems, and enzymatic modification in highly concentrated systems.
  3. Food Structuring. We develop new devices for studying flow fields of very high intensity. With these devices we identify new phenomena, which we use for example to prepare fibrillised foods but also mildly separate biopolymer mixtures in a highly concentrated system (60 wt% solids, implying a factor 30 – 60 intensification relative to industrial standards).
  4. Microtechnology, membranes and modelling: M3. We use microdevices to understand and re-design separation processes, new ways to prepare monodisperse emulsions, use microreactors for enzymatic modification, but also found a very effective method to inactivate bacteria (pasteurization)
  5. Dry Food Processing. We develop new processes for concentrated and dry food products. Our focus is twofold: 1) Fractionation processes for making of plant-based food ingredients and 2) Energy-efficient shaping processes for high quality solid foods (e.g. drying, frying and coating). Maarten Schutyser is chairman of the Dutch Working Group on Drying (NWGD) since December 2010. More information on this group can be found here

  6. Sustainable Process Development. Exergy and pinch analysis techniques are used to analyze processes. With such techniques, we can rationally target our research efforts on improving those steps that are least sustainable (with respect to both generation of waste and consumption of energy). Furthermore, we are working on improving the development of encapsulates that can be added to food products.

  7. Emulsions, encapsulation and interfaces. We aim at connecting the microstructure of food emulsions to their physical and chemical stability. For understanding the underlying mechanisms, we focus on multi-scale and trans-disciplinary approaches, for example through the use of model interfaces and model emulsions. Hence we strive for the development of food emulsions with enhanced nutritional quality, stability and functional performance.