A new technology for the treatment of biological products has been recently set up: the Instantaneous Controlled Decompression. It's a high temperature and short lasting HTST treatment usable in many industrial processes for desiccation, debacterization, texturization and extraction. Applied to the dehydration products in pieces, it allowed to develop an innovative treatment albe to integrate the desiccation to the texturization, different from the traditional desiccation techniques for its capability to couple the high quality of the finished products with an extremely low energy consumption.
The Instantaneous Controlled Decompression treatment called DIC can be applied to different categories of biological products as agricultural products, agrofood products, pharmaceutical products, cosmetic products, etc. It 's composed of two different phases:
- Conditioning: it's a thermal treatment at defined pressure that can last from some seconds to ten seconds, using water steam but also other heating fluids, working by convection or by techniques based on ohmic conduction or irradiation with infrared or micro-waves.
- Decompression: the real decompression is obtained through the rapid exposition (instantaneous) of the product to more or less hard vacuum; this treatment causes an immediate pressure and temperature collapse of the product.
The decompression phase causes an auto evaporation phenomenon (mainly water) that can cause the expansion of the treated products. This event depends for the operative conditions (es. initial and ending pressure and temperature, conditioning times, decompression lasting, etc.) but also from the intrinsic properties of the considered product (physic, reologic, thermal, thermodynamic properties, etc) and from its possible thermal evolution.
The impact of this technique is evident for two main aspects:
- the total duration of any desiccation operation can be reduced to the 50% when is combined with the DIC treatment
- the quality of the dehydrated product is strongly improved because the total thermal exposition of the product is very low
For the application of the DIC process some specific plants for the DIC process application have been developed to satisfy the exigencies of any kind of biologic product.
Another fundamental application field for the DIC technology is the debacterization. Many researches have been carried on in these years to check and limit the presence of microorganisms combining the traditional thermal treatments with irradiating systems (gamma, UV, ultrasounds, etc.) or with mechanical systems (UHP); the application of these techniques is actually quite limited and the most used thermal treatments are the ones used for the pasteurization or sterilization of the biological products.
The DIC debacterization system exploits both the phases of this thermal-mechanical treatment:
- the Conditioning phase is used to destroy as much as possible the number of microorganisms existing in the product to be treated and to introduce in the system the necessary energy quantity;
- the Decompression phase is used to help the explosion or the damage of the cellular walls of the residual microorganisms and to cool quickly the product.
The DIC debacterization allow to preserve better the proteic and vitaminic content of the treated products compared to the traditional thermal techniques, and it results efficacious both on the developed microorganisms and on the sporular ones. This technique moreover can be optimized for delicate pharmaceutical and cosmetic applications, as the enzymes production and antibiotic production of high purity.
In addition to the evident improvement in terms of efficaciousness and quality of the finished products, the debacterization DIC can be applied on biological products of any shape (in pieces, powers products, paste products, liquid products, etc) with simple plant adaptation.