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Processing of sugar beets with pulsed-electric fields

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6 Author(s)
C. Schultheiss ; Forschungszentium Karlsruhe, Inst. for Pulsed Power & Microwave Technol., Karlsruhe, Germany ; H. Bluhm ; H. -G. Mayer ; M. Kern
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The treatment of biological cells with strong pulsed-electric fields can lead to irreversible formation of large pores in the cell membrane and thus destroy the cell and give access to its content. This well-known process of electroporation has been successfully applied to the inactivation of bacteria in many laboratories. However, few efforts have been made to utilize the technique on a large industrial scale for the production of nourishment from food plants. We have built the mobile test device Karlsruher Elektroporations Anlage (KEA), which consists of a 300-kV Marx generator operating at 10 Hz and delivering its pulses to a cylindrical reaction chamber with axially and azimuthally distributed electrodes. The reaction chamber has a large cross section, sufficient for the treatment of entire sugar beets in a continuous stream. KEA has been used in an experimental campaign to demonstrate the advantages of electric pulse treatment for the production of sugar from beets compared with conventional techniques. Although the process has not yet been optimized, it was found that appreciable energy savings are possible since the treated beets could be extracted at much lower temperatures with the same result. To demonstrate the technical and economic feasibility on a large scale, we plan to build a pilot plant with a throughput of several tens of tons per hour and to use it in the next seasonal campaign. Although the results are convincing, important details of the effect are not yet understood. In particular, the interaction between the cell membrane and the cell wall in the plant organism under the action of the electric field needs further investigation. Therefore, we also plan to establish a basic research program.

Published in:

IEEE Transactions on Plasma Science  (Volume:30 ,  Issue: 4 )