Sound Waves of Innovation: The Future of Food and Beverage Preservation


The importance of quality assessment in the realm of food and agricultural produce cannot be overstated. Ensuring that the products we consume meet quality standards is essential for our health and safety and the sustainability of the agricultural industry. Quality assessment encompasses many factors, including taste, nutritional value, freshness, and the absence of contaminants. Traditional quality assessment methods often rely on visual inspection and manual testing, which can be time-consuming and prone to errors. This is where acoustic technology steps in as a game-changer. By harnessing the power of sound waves and sophisticated algorithms, acoustic technology offers a non-invasive and highly accurate means of assessing the quality of food and agricultural products. It can detect subtle variations in texture, ripeness, and even the presence of pathogens or foreign materials, enabling producers and regulators to make informed decisions about the quality and safety of the products entering the market. In an era where food safety and quality are paramount, integrating acoustic technology promises to revolutionize how we ensure our agricultural produce’s excellence.

Acoustic Technology is a perfect alternative to thermal processing due to its environment and economically friendly nature. Acoustic Technology can be applied to Food Processing and the Food Packaging industry as it helps develop bio-degradable food packaging material. Ultrasound can be used at different frequencies to perform tasks such as activation/de-activation of enzymes, emulsification, homogenization, ripening, stabilization, preservation, etc. Applying ultrasonic waves at frequencies around 20 kHz typically involves systems utilizing a liquid or gaseous medium, like air, for wave propagation. This specific type of ultrasonics, known as power ultrasound (US), induces a spectrum of effects, including mechanical, physical, chemical, and biochemical changes, through acoustic cavitation. Acoustic cavitation results from bubbles’ formation, expansion, and eventual collapse, releasing significant energy. This energy is harnessed in various food-processing operations, including drying, extraction, emulsification, and the inactivation of pathogenic bacteria and their enzymes in the food matrix or on its surface.

Acoustic technology is typically classified into high-frequency (1–100 MHz) and low-frequency (16–200 kHz). High-frequency ultrasound (HFUS) is commonly used in medical imaging for diagnostic purposes. It has shorter wavelengths and is more readily absorbed, making it suitable for examining superficial structures. On the other hand, low-frequency ultrasound (LFUS) is applied to induce physical and chemical modifications in various materials, such as food, polymers, alloys, and others.

Application of Acoustic Technology to Preserve Fruits and Vegetables
You’re not alone if you’ve ever wondered how to keep your fruits and vegetables fresh longer. The challenge of preserving these natural goodies after harvest has long been a puzzle for the food industry. But fear not; there’s an exciting new solution on the horizon: ultrasonic technology. Ultrasonic waves have emerged as a groundbreaking tool for food preservation. As discussed above, they work their magic by creating tiny bubbles in water through cavitation. This innovation can be a game-changer for ensuring the safety and quality of your fresh or fresh-cut produce.

One of the standout benefits of ultrasonic treatment is its ability to rid your fruits and vegetables of harmful microorganisms. This means you can confidently enjoy your favorite produce, knowing they’re free from unwanted pathogens. But that’s not all – ultrasonic technology is also eco-friendly. It reduces wastewater toxicity and energy consumption, making it a greener option for food processing. Plus, it can significantly boost productivity, which is excellent news for consumers and producers.

One of the most impressive features of ultrasonics is its gentle touch. It can be used as a pre-treatment before drying your fruits and veggies, speeding up the drying process without compromising their natural flavors and colors. This means your produce retains its fresh and delicious taste after processing. Additionally, ultrasonics can help remove pesticides from your fruits and vegetables safely and effectively. Say goodbye to worries about harmful residues on your grapes, cabbage, carrots, tomatoes, and cucumbers. Studies have shown that ultrasonic treatments using different frequencies can reduce pesticide residues by as much as 95%.

For instance, researchers found that a quick 5-minute ultrasonic cleaning reduced pesticide residues in strawberries by an impressive 91.2% [2]. Similarly, lettuce surfaces can be rid of insecticides by up to 95% after just 8 minutes of ultrasonic treatment, with no loss in nutritional value [3]. The benefits of ultrasonics don’t stop there. High-intensity ultrasonic waves create pressure and temperature spikes, breaking down pesticides and disrupting cells, effectively neutralizing harmful compounds. But that’s not all – ultrasonics also have a talent for inhibiting enzymes that cause browning in fruits and vegetables. By breaking down cell membranes, ultrasonic waves can prevent the browning process, keeping your produce looking and tasting fresh for longer.
Application of Acoustic Technology to Preserve Beverages
When you reach for a refreshing glass of juice, you’re probably not thinking about the intricate science behind its preservation. However, maintaining juices’ natural goodness and flavors during processing is a challenge worth exploring. The traditional approach to preserving juices involves high-temperature thermal treatments to eliminate microorganisms and enzymes for safety reasons. However, this method comes with a cost - losing essential nutrients, freshness, and quality. These thermal treatments, often exceeding 70-90 degrees Celsius, can denature proteins and lead to unwanted changes in taste, color, and shelf life.

Sometimes, incomplete inactivation of enzymes can result in browning and cloudiness, causing further alterations in the juice’s biochemical, physical, and sensory properties. For instance, subjecting tomato juice to a 90°C treatment for just 90 seconds led to a significant loss of lycopene and color changes [4]. Similarly, strawberry juice experienced color reduction and decreased ascorbic acid content after a 90°C, 5-minute thermal processing, compared to a pulsed electric field treatment [5]. Machine learning backed by acoustic sound is also used as an effective and faster recognition of the raw materials like strawberry, watermelons, and carrots for the beverage industries according to various quality parameters.  which eliminates the chances of human error occurred due to personal expertise, experience, and preferences [6].

Enter acoustic-assisted processes designed to preserve the sensory delights of our favorite beverages. These innovative techniques focus on retaining taste, flavor, texture, and overall appeal. A study on pineapple juice demonstrated that using ultrasound treatment at a controlled temperature and mild heat pasteurization could effectively inactivate microorganisms and enzymes while preserving a high amount of phenols. This results in reduced browning and delayed microbial growth during storage.

In another case, green grape juice underwent ultrasound treatment, preserving its sensory attributes and significantly reducing microorganisms. This treatment also enriched the juice with bioactive compounds. Temperature-controlled ultrasound treatment also enhanced the appearance and odor of apple juice while stabilizing it microbiologically. Cherry tomatoes benefited similarly from dual-frequency ultrasound treatment, preserving quality parameters and retaining high levels of total phenolic compounds.

For winemakers, high-powered ultrasound (HPUS) has emerged as a game-changing technology. It facilitated the extraction of compounds from grapes to the must-wine, increasing the total phenol and tannin concentrations, resulting in richer and more aromatic red wines.  However, it’s worth noting that although it is beneficial in many ways, ultrasound treatments can have some drawbacks. They may lead to the degradation of certain compounds, changes in color, and the loss of specific characteristics in the final product.

In a world where food safety, sustainability, and quality are paramount, acoustic technology has emerged as a transformative force. The potential applications of ultrasonic waves in preserving both agricultural produce and beverages are nothing short of remarkable. As we look to the future, it’s clear that acoustic technology will play a pivotal role in reshaping the food and beverage industry. In agriculture, ultrasonics offer a path to safer, more nutritious produce. By effectively eliminating harmful microorganisms and pesticides while preserving flavor and texture, ultrasonic treatment ensures that consumers can enjoy fresh, healthy fruits and vegetables without hesitation. Moreover, its eco-friendly attributes, reducing water waste and energy consumption, align with our growing commitment to sustainable practices.

The connection of sound waves and preservation is a game-changer for the beverage industry. Traditional thermal methods have often compromised the taste and nutritional value of our favorite juices and wines. In contrast, acoustic-assisted processes maintain the sensory delights and enhance them. From pineapple juice with reduced browning to more affluent, more aromatic red wines, ultrasonics offer a tantalizing promise of retaining quality without compromising safety. As researchers continue to fine-tune these technologies, we can expect even more breakthroughs in acoustic preservation. While there may be some minor drawbacks to consider, the overall impact of hearing technology is nothing short of revolutionary. It’s not just a method; it’s a harmonious symphony of science and innovation that promises a brighter, more flavorful future for the food and beverage industry. So, the next time you savor a crisp apple or sip on a glass of fresh juice, remember that the magic of acoustic technology is working silently to preserve nature’s goodness, one sound wave at a time. The future of food and beverage preservation has never sounded so promising.

Author’s Bio 
Computer Science Engineering Scholar
School of Computer Engineering,
 KIIT(Deemed to be University), Bhubaneswar - Odisha
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