PEF (pulsed electric field) treatment in food processing

Finding new ways to increase efficiency in food processing is a major challenge for the food industry and for society as well. Back in the 1950s, the first studies on the PEF method were performed. However, it would take another couple of decades to fully understand all the underlying advantages that PEF has to offer. Learn more about the advantages of PEF technology in food processing in this post.

What is PEF (Pulsed Electric Field)?

Pulsed electric field (PEF) is a non-thermal food preservation method that uses high-voltage, low-energy electric pulses to disrupt the cell membranes of microorganisms and inactivate enzymes in food. The pulses are applied to the food product in the form of a high-voltage electric field. This causes the cell membranes to become permeable, leading to the inactivation of the microorganisms or enzymes. PEF can be used to extend the shelf life of food products by reducing bacterial and enzymatic spoilage, as well as to improve the quality of certain foods by increasing the release of bioactive compounds or enhancing the texture of the product.

PEF can be used as an alternative to traditional thermal pasteurization or chemical treatments and has been shown to be effective in preserving the quality and nutritional value of a variety of food products, including olive oil, juices, milket eggs.

The commodity is pumped through a treatment chamber were the pulsed electric fields are applied disrupting the cell membranes.

How is PEF technology applied?

The application of PEF to food products can be done by passing the food through a PEF treatment chamber, where the electric field is applied. The pulses are generated and controlled by a generator.

OptiCept provides pulsed electric field applications that are retrofitted into existing production lines. 

Read more about the different PEF applications developed by OptiCept ->

Non-thermal vs. Thermal food processing

Non-thermal treatments, such as PEF, are considered to be better than thermal treatments for several reasons:

  • Quality preservation: Non-thermal treatments, such as PEF, do not generate heat, which means that the food product does not experience the same level of thermal degradation as it would with a thermal treatment. This helps to preserve the quality of the food product, including its taste, color, and nutritional value.
  • Reduced energy consumption: Non-thermal treatments, such as PEF, require less energy than thermal treatments, which can help to reduce the cost of food processing and make it more sustainable.
  • Faster processing times: Non-thermal treatments, such as PEF, can be completed in a shorter amount of time than thermal treatments, which can increase the efficiency of the food processing operation.
  • Flexibility: Non-thermal treatments, such as PEF can be applied to a wide variety of food products, including those that are heat-sensitive, which makes it more versatile and flexible as a preservation method.

However, it is important to note that the efficacy of non-thermal treatments such as PEF is still to be proven for certain products and microorganisms. OptiCept is researching and developing PEF treatment for new product areas such as plant-based milk, dairyet beer. Applications have already been developed for olive oil, juiceet wine as well as a pre-treatment for dried food products.


OptiCept’s patented technology called CEPT® (Closed Environment PEF treatment) 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 (Switched power and component development).

Learn more about the differences in this post ->

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