Intensified Protein Structuring with a couette cell for production of meat analogues

Meat production is extremely inefficient with respect to use of land, water and raw materials. As consumers, we obtain only 10% of the necessary proteins that are initially present in the cereals fed to animals. Furthermore, to produce one kilogram of meat, two orders of magnitude more water is needed, compared to cereals. A proven solution to that problem is the introduction of meat replacers to our daily diet. Meat replacers are products that contain high amounts of plant proteins like soya. Today’s processes are not providing high quality meat replacers and that is due to the lack of suitable equipment for their production. For this reason we are focusing on the development of a continuous process that is dedicated to the production of meat replacers.

It was proven in past research that by applying simple shear to a protein dispersion placed within a cone-shaped device called the shear cell, we can produce finely fibrous structures that resemble meat. The shear cell (batch system) is the starting point towards the development of a semi-continuous process. The new device is a Couette cell based on a two coaxial cylinder configuration with the inner cylinder rotating. Rotation induces a simple shear flow in the protein dispersion resulting in the alignment of the proteins followed by a solidification stage.

 

Objective:

Understand the influence of the operating conditions (e.g. rotational speed, temperature, process time) and the structural characteristics of the couette cell (e.g. device geometry, wall surface roughness, shearing zone thickness) on the product quality (e.g. water holding content, fine fibers) and the structure formation mechanisms.