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Improving the competitiveness in the European frozen food industry through the development of new freezing equipment based on CO2

Final Report Summary - COMPFREEZE (Improving the competitiveness in the European frozen food industry through the development of new freezing equipment based on CO2)

The ultimate aim of the COMPFREEZE project was to promote the competitiveness amongst small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the frozen food industry by developing low-temperature freezing equipment, thus contributing to the increase of the SMEs' productivity.

The project focused on the freezing process which uses CO2 as a refrigerant in order to:
- promote knowledge of the connection between the quick-freezing process and the quality of the product by using various types of freezers to control the process;
- implement the developed knowledge in new freezing equipment to ensure better product quality at lower operational costs.

Advanced calculation tools for design and measure of performance were developed for freezing equipment such as plate freezers, spiral and impingement, as well as for ice cream freezers. The WINTIX simulation model was deployed for finite element analysis (FEM) of food freezing and simulation of the impact of the freezing process on most important quality parameters for foodstuffs such as ice cream, meat, pies and mushrooms.

The project showed that proportionality between product quality and nucleation rate existed and a simple Arrhenius-like empirical equation for the nucleation rate of ice crystals could be used. That made possible to simulate food quality parameters based on experimental tests.

Furthermore, new understanding and experience with CO2 as refrigerant was achieved. Much higher heat transfer during pool boiling, as well as operation close to the triple point was possible and the increase of performance caused the freezing time to shorten. The level of safety in production facilities was ensured and there was little impact on personnel. The systems were easy to operate and maintain, safe high-pressure components were available and also hot gas defrost was easy to use and effective.

Improved freezing methods were implemented for various food products and the experience gathered was documented and implemented in process lines with improvement of the freezing process for ice cream and handling and freezing process for pies and mushrooms. The participating food producers expanded their documentation abilities regarding the quality of food products and increased the effectiveness of the production processes.