University confirms that Scottish technology could
revolutionise global food processing
Researchers and commercial experts from Queen Margaret University are currently working with one of the world’s most innovative users of microwave technology in a pioneering project which is set to revolutionise the global food processing industry. Initial trials are proving that this Scottish technology could have a significant impact on one of the world’s largest industries by delivering cost benefits, slashing energy consumption and increasing efficiency. The work is an excellent example of how businesses, particularly SMEs (small and medium sized enterprises), can derive considerable benefits by utilising specific skills and facilities provided by universities.
Douglas Armstrong and Dr Yuriy Zadyraka from Advanced Microwave Technologies Ltd (AMT) are global leaders in the use of microwave technology. This dynamic team has developed a unique way of using microwaves to heat liquids, suspensions and semi solids on a continuous basis. This technology was developed for use in the waste industry. However, seeing the possibilities for the system in the food industry, AMT began work with a team of experts at Queen Margaret University to establish the potential.
Douglas Armstrong, AMT’s Managing Director, explained: “Commercial processing of many foods has changed little over the years and is traditionally carried out in batches in pots and ovens or by continuously using inefficient steam systems. Processing by these methods is highly energy inefficient, labour intensive and the systems require extensive cleaning. More importantly, cooking by these methods can cause considerable damage to the nutrient content, flavour and colour of the food, eg processing fruit juice can reduce the nutrients and result in an inferior taste.”
The new AMT system works by delivering microwave energy directly and evenly into any material being pumped continuously through a microwave transparent pipe. This new method of gently delivering energy, known as ’microwave volumetric heating’, has many practical advantages. It eliminates hot surfaces, therefore preventing thicker foods from sticking, such as eggs, sauces and jams. It is more controllable and dramatically improves energy efficiency allowing cooking costs to be reduced by at least half!
Traditional batch processes can be transformed into continuous ones - ultimately saving labour costs and down time eg when machines are being cleaned. The technology is extremely versatile and the same equipment can be used across a range of food and drink products, from pasteurising fruit juice to producing cooked sausage.
Douglas explained: “Whilst we were aware of many of the advantages of our technology, we needed additional technical and commercial experts to help us evaluate the potential benefits of the system within the food and drink industry. We found out about Queen Margaret University from Interface and we chose to work with the University because of its expertise in nutrition, its strong links with the food industry and its high tech facilities.
“Together we have carried out a series of feasibility trials within a newly developed test facility now at Queen Margaret University. We have now used the microwave technology across a range of products including fruit juice, root vegetables, cooked sausage, jam, custard, and scrambled eggs. We’re even working on toothpaste!
Dr Mary Warnock, Commercialisation and Knowledge Exchange expert, said: ”So far, we’ve only scratched the surface. Our trials have highlighted the enormous potential of this versatile machine. We firmly believe that this technology can offer substantial benefits to the global food processing industry. The extent of its applications has yet to be fully realised.”
Dr Sue Gordon, the Food and Drink Business Development Manager at Queen Margaret University (sponsored by Scottish Enterprise) said: “In this difficult economic climate it is critical that commercial organisations, particularly SMEs realise that they can gain significant benefits from working in partnership with university experts.”
Following these initial trials, Queen Margaret University is so convinced by the technology, that it has now created a trial facility to enable external companies to come and evaluate the system for their own applications.
Dr Sue Gordon confirmed: “Already, there has been substantial interest from the food industry including the national food retailers, many of which have started using the trial facility as well as QMU’s growing expertise in this new technology.”
Dr Gordon concluded: “Queen Margaret University is establishing itself as the global centre for excellence in the use of this technology. We are already collaborating with a number of research partners to explore other practical and technical benefits within other areas of the food and drinks industry. For instance, we believe that the system could have a major role in reducing micro organisms during food production.”
The University is now welcoming enquiries from organisations who may be interested in any aspect of this work or seeing demonstrations of the machine.”
Separate highlighted box:
If you are keen to find out if the AMT machine can benefit your company, please contact Dr Mary Warnock, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, Tel: 0131 474 0000. If you wish to know more about QMU’s research and commercialisation services please contact Kim Gilchrist , Research and Knowledge Exchange Unit, on email@example.com; Tel: 0131 474 0000.
NOTES TO EDITOR
AMT was introduced to Queen Margaret University through Interface. Interface is a matchmaking service connecting businesses quickly and easily to world class expertise, knowledge and research facilities available in all Scotland's Universities and Research Institutes.
For further media information please contact Lynne Russell, Press and PR Officer, Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh, tel: 0131 474 0000, mob: 07711 011239.