Servizio Comunitario di Informazione in materia di Ricerca e Sviluppo - CORDIS

Prototype of a flow cell for particle structuring

The flow cell for particle generating and structuring of such particles in non-equilibrium shapes consists out of three major unit-operations: Sizing, Deformation and Gelling of the dispersed phase that is injected into a co-flowing continuous phase. Due to optimised tuning of flow, gelation, and interfacial kinetics the flow cell can produce dispersed phases with narrow size distribution and, as a consequence, equally shape and fixated particles. The use of non-equilibrium shape particles incorporated into consumer products offers a wide range of different textures, ingredient releases and other physical properties. Since in particulated food and other suspensions not all dispersed particles have to be shaped, a minor amount of shaped particles are sufficient to produce new products. The flow cell therefore aims to generate not pure mass of gelled particles but fewer well-characterised shape particles. Such well-defined particle will then be added to existing or newly designed products to enhance amongst other properties the chemical, physical, sensory, and release properties.

From a commercial point of view, the flow cell is a new apparatus to produce well-defined particulated dispersions of gelled food-grade or non food-grade aggregates. Beside the invented apparatus, down-stream devices, such as mixers, packing machinery have to adapt to the new technique. Here an input to machine manufactures is expected. A second commercial spin-off is the mentioned generation of shaped particles and the input on enhanced or newly developed food or other consumer produces. The aspect of generating microcapsules is an additional bonus track in terms of new products and techniques.

Form food and non-food products social benefits in terms of low fat products, products where critical ingredients such as gelatin is replaced by shaped particles, etc. is expected. New and cheap methods to produce microcapsules have an important impact on health aspect of the society.

Scientifically the flow cell links an enormous body of work related to fluid dynamics of co-flowing fluids, gelation kinetics on short times, influence of surfactants on deformation and gelling of biopolymers, as well as incorporation into an industrial apparatus. All mentioned aspects covering new areas in science and technology and are therefore first but important steps.

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ETH Zurich
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