A lot of digital ink has been spilled on how cavitation has been revolutionizing the food industry in plain sight over the last few years.
What exactly is this process? How has it been changing food for the better?
If you’ve never heard of this and you want to know more about what it is and what it means for the food sector, then you’ll definitely want to keep reading.
What is Cavitation?
Physics.org states that cavitation refers to the process that occurs “when the pressure in a liquid suddenly drops”. The site then goes on to explain that when liquid is pushed before it has time to react, the end result is typically a gas bubble or an otherwise noted low pressure area.
In nature, the mantis shrimp is a species that actually uses cavitation to kill prey. Surprisingly, it’s not normally the heat that does the prey in, although cavitation bubbles are capable of reaching temperatures hotter than the surface of the sun, but from the shockwaves that come from the collapse of the bubble.
From the outside looking in, killer shrimp and engine propellers shouldn’t have much in common with food industry technology, but that’s what makes it so surprising to many that the food industry, of all places, would be one of the first to begin utilizing cavitation.
Cavitation’s Use in the Food Industry
Although beer has largely taken over the headlines, cavitation has been applied to a range of uses in preparing food such as:
- egg pasteurization
- beer brewing
- pet food processing
What’s notable is that the cavitation methods can be broadly divided into two types: ultrasound, which relies on soundwaves and is often used to break down solids, and the hydrodynamic technology which appears to export heat primarily.
Regardless of the differences in methodology, the key similarity here is that the technology is successful because it is taking the known properties of cavitation and then using those to make the processes already developed by a given industry more effective.
Are There Advantages to Using Cavitation in the Food Industry?
If the industry is for the most part simply borrowing cavitation to do what it’s always done, are there really any benefits to this new technology?
The answer is yes. There are at least three benefits to using this that are sure to compel the continued growth of this technology.
- Faster Processing
- More Flavor and Taste in Food
- A Safer Final Product
Companies using cavitation have been able to dramatically reduce their processing times.
In the case of at least Cabarrus, a brewing company named in an article from NPR, it was able to use cavitation to reduce processing times by 80%.
Since companies have the option of fine-tuning the machines as needed, this is especially useful.
The constant bubbles that are forming and collapsing in the process make it capable of breaking different components down while also doing a more thorough job of mixing ingredients.
In beer, for instance, they found that cavitation was able to convert more barley into brewing sugar which had the net effect of dramatically improving the flavor.
Similarly, while you would expect the dairy industry to primarily utilize cavitation for pasteurization, yogurt, for instance, was able to successfully use it to create a fuller and more flavorful texture.
From the standpoint of sales via customer experience alone, it’s not hard to see why businesses are turning to this type of technology more.
With many foods, such as with milk or perhaps eggs, there’s traditionally been a trade-off at times between the safety of the food and the taste.
Going back to the example of eggs, pasteurization was a balancing act with too much heat resulting in a partially-cooked yolk while not enough heat could raise questions about the integrity of that pasteurized batch.
The thoroughness of cavitation-based technology when applied to food processing means that it’s more capable of evenly killing bacteria and making food safe to eat without straining the machinery or anything of that nature.
Although science has known about cavitation for well over 250 years, harnessing its power for own use is a new development and that’s what makes the use of cavitation in the food industry so remarkable.
As the market continues to mature and new applications are discovered, don’t be surprised if this technology becomes more popular in other sectors as well.
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