(375i) Fair or Foul – Food Freshness Beyond the Smell Test | AIChE

(375i) Fair or Foul – Food Freshness Beyond the Smell Test


Abulencia, J. P. - Presenter, Manhattan College
Suresh, A., Manhattan College
Packaging is a topic that is not often discussed in the undergraduate chemical engineering curriculum. In practice, it is generally something that is overlooked since the contents are often what the end-user cares most about, and packaging the barrier to get to it. However, packaging in the food and beverage industry is particularly important because manufacturers have to ensure that the (often) perishable contents are able to withstand the physical and thermal stresses that the product may encounter from plant to consumer.

In this work, we will ask undergraduate chemical engineering students in a heat transfer class to: 1) identify a commercial food or beverage product they wish to study, 2) research and obtain properties of its packaging (e.g. paper, aluminum, cellophane), 3) research spoilage data on the food product, and 4) model the heat transfer through the packaging over several real-world thermal-stress scenarios using Comsol to identify when the product will spoil. Some examples of these scenarios include: 1) an inadvertently long transfer from delivery truck to the grocery store refrigerator on a summer day, 2) power outage, and 3) a stress scenario of the student’s choosing. Additionally, students will be asked to attempt to improve the food packaging they studied, with the goal of extending the viable timeframe of the product. Possible avenues of continuation for this project in the chemical engineering curriculum include the mass transfer course (e.g. modelling the effects of leaks in the packaging), as well as the kinetics or biotechnology course (e.g. examining the actual growth kinetics of the bacteria).