Food engineering is a recently developed engineering division with particular interests in the commercialization of food products and services. Food engineering is a multi-disciplinary field of applied physical sciences which works to combine the knowledge of science, microbiology, and engineering for cost-efficient and effective processing of food. The subject is not only concerned with the direct development of food items and related products; other related activities such as research and design of food engineering machinery, developing packaging materials and machinery, and instrumentation and control systems are all part of food engineering. Other concerns of food engineering are the environmental friendliness of machinery and food engineering processes. Food engineers apply the principles of physics, chemistry, mathematics and basic engineering in preparing waste treatment and other environmentally friendly technologies in food processing.
Advanced technologies of food engineering, employing the principles of nano-technology and other modern developments in microbiology, are also involved in developing new food products and processes. Transportation without spoilage is also one of the major challenges food engineers address. Advanced materials and material technology principles are being employed by food engineering scientists in developing durable food containers and other packaging materials of food and related products.
Novel food processing techniques - e.g. dehydration, membrane usage, electronic controlled thermal processing, auto extrusion - are all results of food engineering technology developments. All of these versatile technologies are being studied by food engineering researchers to enhance their applicability and optimize them for better results. At the graduate level, food engineering students study the bio-chemical characteristics of food items, microbiological reactions and manipulation of them for food processing requirements. Food additives, the effects of additives on characteristics of foods, and shelf life are also studied at the graduate level. Energy utilization in food processing and thermal properties of food items also form an important part of study.
Pickling, concentration enhancement, sterilization, pasteurization, and fermentation are essential topics in food engineering wherein graduates work to gain sufficient theoretical and practical expertise. Canning of food items for fruits, vegetables, meats, poultry and marine products is studied as a special course in food engineering due to increased significance of packaging in the food industry.
Knowing the basics of food rheology, fluid and flow properties of food are important characteristics for food processing and hence are studied in depth in food engineering programs. Special consideration is also given to the usage of steam, heat transfer mechanisms, psychometrics, and heat and mass balance. Research areas also include safe use of chemicals in agriculture, efficient bio-refineries, and process optimization etc. Food engineers are finding careers in global food industries as well as alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverage industries.
JFE, IJFE and FE are some of the several online resources offering valuable information on the latest developments in food engineering programs. AAMP and AFFI are two professional associations offering speciality professional membership programs and information support on chosen specific domains of food engineering.
Food engineers need to be able to estimate process parameters and design food engineering equipment in accordance with best practice principles. This selection of sample problems provides some insight into the typical challenges food engineers face.
A single effect evaporator is used to evaporate and thereby enhance the concentration of a certain fruit juice from 18% of solid content to 23% solid content. Consider the mass flow rate of the juice as 3kg/s. Can you:
Assume that the juice enters the evaporator at 50 degrees Celsius (saturated steam at 100 degrees Celsius is used as heating medium, and the condensate exists at 100 degrees Celsius. Consider the heat capacity rate of the fruit juice as 3.7kg/kg-oC and 3.6 KJ/kg-oC at the inlet and outlet of the evaporator respectively. The overall heat transfer coefficient of the evaporator is 1500 W/m2-oC.
As the evaporator is a single effect evaporator, the mass flow happens due to the force of gravity alone and is shown in the following figure:
Valentas, K.J., Rotstein, E. and Singh, R.P., 1997. Handbook of food engineering practice. CRC Press.
Yanniotis, S., 2007. Solving problems in food engineering. Springer Science & Business Media.
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