FREEZEWAVE project concerns the freezing of foods using a highly innovative technique combining freezing at slow rate with part time emission of microwaves (2450 MHz). This innovative concept has been investigated recently by ONIRIS (Xanthakis et al, 2014); results showed that a 62% decrease of the average ice crystal size was acquired when samples of pork meat were frozen under microwave irradiation compared to the control. Freezing offers a quasi-infinite shelf life of food regarding the microbial risk and it is environmental friendly in that it reduces food wastes and offers convenience to the consumer (cook just what you need). Limitations in shelf life rather come from the deterioration of the quality of food which is due to: i) mechanical damage caused by ice crystals formation and ii) exposition of the matrix to concentrated solution caused by cryoconcentration.
To improve the quality of frozen foods, fast freezing is usually recommended, resulting in a reduction of the ice crystals. However, a fast freezing increases the energy demand: low ambient temperature & high air velocity to enhance the rate of heat transfer are needed to achieve a fast freezing. This project aims at demonstrating that low energy microwave combined to a slow freezing rate is able to refine ice crystal size in frozen foods. FREEZEWAVE project aims at expanding & optimizing the concept to several foods (sauce, meat, vegetable & ready to eat meals) and also at designing industrial equipment.
The novel concept is expected to concern the freezing equipment sector and the frozen food market. The participation of a French SME partner of the project (SAIREM – specialized in micro waves) will help to design and upscale the equipment for industry applications. FREEZEWAVE will provide scientific knowledge and new scientific insights in food freezing. Project’s outcomes may also be of interest for non-food applications such as biotechnology.
The overall objectives are :
- To develop innovative and low energy demanding freezing process for high quality foods.
- To develop new models and scientific knowledge on freezing under oscillating electrical disturbances.
- To set up a number of protocols and knowledge on innovative concepts of freezing.
- To assess the effect of microwave waves on reduction of the size of ice crystals and overall quality of frozen foods.
- To develop and optimize the process in batch conditions to different food systems, such as sauce (emulsion), vegetable, meat & ready to eat meal.
- To scale up the process to industrial scale in the case of batch & conveyor system.
This project aims also at setting at European level a network of partners which will develop a highly innovative freezing technology.