STTR Phase I: A Device for Rapid Estimation of Temperature Dependent Thermal Properties for Food Processing Systems

Period of Performance: 06/15/2017 - 05/31/2018

$225K

Phase 1 STTR

Recipient Firm

Thermetrics, Inc.
325 E Grand River Ave Ste 355
East Lansing, MI 48823
Firm POC, Principal Investigator

Research Institution

Purdue University
Young Hall
West Lafayette, IN 47907
Institution POC

Abstract

The broader impact/commercial potential of this Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) will be the development of a dynamic thermal analysis system for use in aseptic food processing. The true value of thermal properties for specific food products is required for the design of a thermal process to prevent possible bacterial contamination due to underheating, or degradation and formation of unwanted compounds due to overheating. The proposed innovation would allow food processors to improve their understanding of thermal properties in rapid heating applications, and by validating novel food processing technologies. The impact is expected to be that the quality and nutritional value of aseptic processed foods should increase dramatically as it will eliminate the need to excessively overcook products to ensure their safety. The commercial impact of this research will be through enhancing the quality of aseptic processed food and of rapidly heated batter-based foods. As the aseptic food quality will be further enhanced compared to that of canned and frozen alternatives, this technology will also increase the growth of the rapidly growing aseptic food industry. This STTR Phase I project proposes to develop a commercial prototype device capable of rapidly measuring the thermal properties of a material over a range of temperatures. Currently, there is no way to quickly measure properties, which are necessary for accurate modeling of rapid heating processes such as those used for aseptic food processing and for foods baked between hot irons, such as burgers. Without rapid measurement, the food product deteriorates before taking measurements. Phase I research should develop, build, and validate a physical prototype and associated software. Control and data acquisition software, along with data analysis and parameter estimation software, will be finalized and validated. The device will be tested against materials with known parameters to statistically validate its performance and accuracy. Finally the device will be tested alongside the prior state-of-the-art to compare its performance to the industry standard. The product of this research will be a commercially-viable prototype that has been validated against literature values and has been demonstrated to outperform current devices. The device will be able to measure parameters over a range of temperatures more accurately and in a fraction of the time of current methodology.