Engineering design and prototype development of a full scale ultrasound system for virgin olive oil by means of numerical and experimental analysis
- A sono-exchanger has been designed.
- A sono-exchanger has been prototyped and tested.
- High power ultrasounds enhance virgin olive oil quality.
- High power ultrasounds enhance virgin olive sensory evaluation.
- High power ultrasounds inhibit the olive polyphenoloxidase enzyme.
The aim of the virgin olive oil extraction process is mainly to obtain the best quality oil from fruits, by only applying mechanical actions while guaranteeing the highest overall efficiency. Currently, the mechanical methods used to extract virgin oils from olives are basically of two types: the discontinuous system (obsolete) and the continuous one. Anyway the system defined as “continuous” is composed of several steps which are not all completely continuous, due to the presence of the malaxer, a device that works in batch. The aim of the paper was to design, realize and test the first full scale sono-exchanger for the virgin olive oil industry, to be placed immediately after the crusher and before the malaxer. The innovative device is mainly composed of a triple concentric pipe heat exchanger combined with three ultrasound probes. This mechanical solution allows both the cell walls (which release the oil droplets) along with the minor compounds to be destroyed more effectively and the heat exchange between the olive paste and the process water to be accelerated. This strategy represents the first step towards the transformation of the malaxing step from a batch operation into a real continuous process, thus improving the working capacity of the industrial plants. Considering the heterogeneity of the olive paste, which is composed of different tissues, the design of the sono-exchanger required a thorough fluid dynamic analysis. The thermal effects of the sono-exchanger were monitored by measuring the temperature of the product at the inlet and the outlet of the device; in addition, the measurement of the pigments concentration in the product allowed monitoring the mechanical effects of the sono-exchanger. The effects of the innovative process were also evaluated in terms of extra virgin olive oil yields and quality, evaluating the main legal parameters, the polyphenol and tocopherol content. Moreover, the activity of the polyphenol oxidase enzyme in the olive paste was measured.
- Virgin olive oil process;
- Fluid dynamic analysis;
- Virgin olive oil quality
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