Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory collaborates with USDA in development of pasteurization process

Plainsboro, New Jersey -- A small group of fusion researchers at the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) is focusing its attention on an innovative pasteurization process through a collaboration with the Agriculture Department. PPPL, which is funded by the U.S. Department of Energy and managed by Princeton University, is a collaborative national center for plasma science and technology leading to an attractive fusion energy source.

Earlier this fall, PPPL and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) signed an interagency agreement to jointly develop new pasteurization methods that use radio frequency (RF) waves and microwave heating. These heating techniques -- also used to warm plasma in a fusion device -- are being tested for pasteurizing raw liquid foods such as eggs, fruit juices, and milk. "This is another example of applying our fusion and plasma science capabilities to an area that benefits the U.S. public," said PPPL Technology Transfer Head Lewis Meixler.

The $120,000 agreement between the two federally funded agencies came about after researchers at the USDA's Eastern Regional Research Center (ERRC) in Philadelphia evaluated RF radiation while exploring improved methods for pasteurization. Initial results and subsequent evaluation of micro-organisms introduced into liquid foods indicate that RF radiation is a potentially effective means for pasteurization.

RF waves offer advantages over the traditional pasteurization method of directly heating raw liquid foods. The direct method often heats foods unevenly, possibly resulting in incomplete pasteurization in lower temperature regions and in denaturing foods in overheated regions. Using radio frequency waves in the appropriate wavelength may allow pasteurization without heating liquid foods to temperatures that cause food deterioration.

The ERRC is collaborating with PPPL because of the Laboratory's extensive experience in the application of RF and microwave radi

Contact: Anthony R. DeMeo
DOE/Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory

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