Traditional electroporation devices have been used by microbiologists in clinical settings for decades. These small systems do not scale up for commercial pasteurization, however, due to excessive energy consumption, excessive fluid heating, deleterious electrochemical reactions, and electrolysis, notably hydrogen gas production, posing a hazard at large scales. Traditional electroporation devices in laboratory settings consist of a pair of electrically conductive bare metal electrodes positioned as opposing flat plates, separated by a few millimeters. The electrodes are immersed in a fluid suspension of bacteria, voltage is applied, and electric current conducts from one electrode to the other through the suspension fluid. The resulting electric field causes membrane perforation. The salient operational feature of standard electroporation devices is the use of conducting bare-metal electrodes in intimate contact with the fluid under treatment. We have termed treatment with this type of device ‘Low Impedance Electroporation’ (LIE), referring to the low impedance of the conductive electrodes.
By contrast, a method employing a dielectric barrier between the electrodes and the fluid under treatment, thus electrically insulating the metal plates, is termed ‘High Impedance Electroporation’ (HIE). HIE is the subject of the MRT invention. The HIE device is differentiated from a LIE device by the placement of a dielectric barrier separating the conductive metal electrodes from the fluid under treatment. Since the electrodes are electrically insulated, near zero conduction current occurs, thus curing the problem of electrochemical reactions, free radical production, electrolysis, electrode degradation, and excessive waste heat production. By overcoming these challenges, the HIE system can be applied to commercially scaled pasteurization of liquid foods such as milk, fruit juice, beer, wine, soups, and water.
HIE cold pasteurization is a much simpler operation than thermal pasteurization. Compared to large, complicated boilers, chillers, and heat recovery equipment currently in use, an HIE system only needs to provide liquid flow through the processing plant, and a power supply. The flow section of the HIE system resembles an open grid, which can be plumbed directly in process flow piping.
The system will be fully instrumented, including a proprietary method used to monitor pasteurization efficacy in real time (similar to thermal pasteurization tracking time and temperature).
If the reduced energy consumption of a commercially scaled HIE system is fully realized, its introduction to the liquid food industry would be revolutionary in terms of reducing operating costs and GHG emissions associated with thermal pasteurization. HIE will not only revolutionize the dairy and beverage industries, but also has potential applications in water and wastewater treatment, environmental air quality in HVAC systems, and irrigation and reverse-osmosis systems (to prevent biological fouling of piping or membranes). Aside from economic and environmental benefits, HIE technology may also benefit the health and welfare of populations in underdeveloped countries by treating drinking water