The focus in the Food Technology Lab is on the investigation of extraction processes using innovative technologies based on supercritical fluids. The aim is to extract compounds with high nutritional value from food waste and to convert them into products and nanomaterials. Using homogenisation, pasteurisation, extrusion or drying techniques, new formulations and ingredients are created, and in addition their stability and durability are analysed.
Researchers use the properties of supercritical carbon dioxide to extract natural compounds with high added value without the use of solvents. This technology is used to extract essential oils from seeds and fruit peel; to extract bioactive, nutraceutical and antioxidant substances from industrial waste and to remove pesticides, pollutants as well as undesirable substances (such as caffeine, cholesterol) from food.
In addition, pilot studies are carried out in the laboratory to optimise the production of ingredients. Using freeze-drying, water can be gently removed from products. Not only are researchers able to “functionalise” foods by adding antioxidative or antimicrobial compounds, they also obtain powdered products with high nutritional content, long shelf life and stability and which can be easily rehydrated.
Pilot studies on extrusion techniques are also being carried out. Innovative products can be created by mixing functional ingredients such as flours enriched with protein, fibre and starch in order to improve their nutritional profile. High-pressure homogenisation technology (up to 20 MPa) can produce extremely stable nanoemulsions: oil-in-water emulsions or water-in-oil emulsions. This allows, for example, the incorporation of nutraceutical, antioxidative, natural antimicrobial compounds or flavours in foods and drinks in which they do not occur naturally.
Another key topic of research is nanotechnology for the development of new agricultural and food products. Nanomaterials are developed in the laboratory, which, thanks to their special chemical-physical properties, bring about considerable advantages such as, for example, stronger chemical/biological reactivity in the production, processing, and preservation of food as well as in the production of additives and ingredients ‑ and they enable the development of innovative materials which come into contact with food.
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