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New insights into the apple fruit dehydration process at the cellular scale by 3D continuum modeling

Prawiranto, Kevin, Defraeye, Thijs, Derome, Dominique, Verboven, Pieter, Nicolai, Bart, Carmeliet, Jan
Journal of food engineering 2018 v.239 pp. 52-63
apples, cell membranes, cell walls, deformation, fruits, mass transfer, membrane permeability, models, plasmolysis, shrinkage, sorption isotherms, water activity, water content, water potential
An accurate understanding of the dehydration kinetics of biological materials is essential to optimize their dehydration processes and to produce high-quality dried products. For a soft, cellular material like fruit, the underlying mass transport and deformation mechanisms at the cellular scale play a key role here. To improve our insight into the cellular scale dehydration kinetics, a 3D model is developed to quantify the impact of the changes in the cellular structure of apple (parenchyma) cells during dehydration on the tissue sorption isotherm and water permeability. As a step beyond the current state-of-the-art models, the model incorporates the changes in the cellular structure over entire dehydration process, starting from a turgid cell down to the occurrence of (free) shrinkage, plasmolysis (detachment of the cell membrane from the cell wall) or lysis (rupture of the cell membrane). Regarding the tissue sorption isotherm, plasmolysis induced a reduction in the equilibrium water content (up to 60%) compared to the free-shrinkage or lysis cases at the same water activity level. On the other hand, the tissue water permeability was found to increase up to five times when lysis occurs, compared to free shrinkage or plasmolysis. A parametric study also quantified the dependency of tissue permeability on the cell wall thickness, the cell membrane permeability, the cell size and the elongation aspect ratio of the cell. We identified that the dehydrated, shrunken cellular tissue reduces the outgoing water flux compared to fresh tissue for the same water potential gradient. As such, dehydrated tissue forms a barrier against further moisture removal from the fresh tissue below.