History of PEF - Pulsed Electric Fields

Pulsed electric fields have been applied for many years and in different areas. In this post, we answer the most frequently asked questions regarding PEF.

What is PEF?

PEF stands for Pulsed Electric Field. PEF treatment uses high voltage pulses on liquids or semi-solids. Short electrical pulses aim to inactivate microbes without having any negative effect on the valuable food attributes. PEF treatments are applied in the form of short pulses to avoid excessive heating or undesirable electrolytic reactions. The basic principle of the PEF technology is the application of short pulses of high electric fields with a duration of micro- to milliseconds. 

The practical use of electricity to process food is over one hundred years old. Food products, such as food oils, juices, dairy products, and more – are capable of transferring electricity because of the presence of ions, giving the product in question a certain degree of electrical conductivity. So, when an electrical field is applied, electrical current flows into the commodity and is transferred to each point in the liquid because of the charged molecules present. The first products on which PEF has been used, were fruit juices and smoothies.

PEF technology shows major advantages compared to traditional thermal processing methods. It reduces changes in the valuable properties of foods.

CEPT® can be described as a new and innovative type of PEF. It is a new and easier way to create, control, and apply pulses more efficiently. It holds several advantages compared to traditional pulsed electric field technology.

How Does It Work?

PEF (pulsed electric fields) creates pores in the cell membranes

Every cell contains +/- ions. By adding electric power between two electrodes they pull the + and – ions apart. This leads to the cell breaking or leaves it destroyed entirely depending on the power of the electricity. PEF technology has been presented as advantageous in comparison to, for instance, heat treatments, because it kills microorganisms while better maintaining the original color, flavor, texture, and nutritional value of the unprocessed food.

The PEF treatment is applied and controlled using a generator.

Non Thermal Processing

One huge advantage of PEF is that there is no need for heating of the product in order to inactivate cells of microorganisms and enzymes. The organoleptic as well as nutrient properties are not harmed.

The design of the treatment chamber plays a significant role in PEF treatment. That is why OptiCept has invested in the development of a game-changing chamber.

PEF is a low energy process and helps to save valuable time in the production process.

PEF enables more substrate to be released from the commodity treated. For example olive oil can be released in higher volumes with a non-thermal effect.

PEF Application Areas

PEF is not only beneficial for food processing. It can be used within medical, environmental, and food technology.

PEF is applicable on plant, animal, and microbial cells.

Within food technology, PEF is for instance used on juices, oil, milk, soups, liquid eggs, yogurt, and wine.

Within the area of medicine, PEF is used for cancer treatment. There have been made attempts to apply pulsed electric fields for the cure of different medical illnesses and diseases such as depression.

Learn more about how PEF can be applied to fruit juices:

Read more about our CEPT® applications dryCEPT®, wineCEPT®, oliveCEPT®, juiceCEPT®et juiceCEPT®+.

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