PEF (Pulsed Electric Field) treatments


The developed technology allows to:

  • stabilize, using non-thermal treatments, liquid food products or in pasta
  • make permeable vegetable or animal food matrices in order to facilitate the extraction of nutritional components or dyes inside cells.

Essential characteristics of the technique are, in the first case, the absence of thermal effects (mild pasteurization) and, in the second, the increase of the extraction yield by eliminating the use of organic solvents.



Technological field


Process/plant for non-thermal stabilization of foods.



Principle of operation


A high voltage electric field applied with a very short pulse causes the perforation of the cell membranes. This involves the deactivation of microorganisms and, in solid matrices, the permeabilization of the cells of the food without thermal effects.



Technical sheet


ProdAl has know-how about the process and plants of different scales, including a pilot plant operating in continuous for liquid products. The plant was designed by ProdAl and is really unique in the world.

The available technology may be of interest to:

  • food companies wishing to market high-end products produced by mild pasteurization;
  • machine manufacturer companies interested in developing innovative equipment based on the principle of pulsed electric fields;
  • producers of ingredients and/or nutraceutical products concerned to an increase of the extraction yields through a non-invasive pretreatment not requiring chemicals or enzymes;
  • machine manufacturers interested in the field of the extraction treatments.


Technological benchmark vs state of the art


Experimental activities and some pre-industrial applications in the field of extraction pre-treatments were carried out. The results are quite consolidated and the relative simplicity of the basic physical principle allows to plan the construction of medium scale plants through a scale-up not particularly complex. The electric fields have the advantage of being able to be modeled in a reliable way.

The experiments on different products conducted by ProdAl, even on pilot scale, have yielded promising results, so as to achieve a competitive advantage worldwide.

Looking to stabilization, the PEF presents the strengths both compared to the processes of thermal pasteurization since it can operate at temperatures below 50°C, both with respect to high pressure technology since it can operate continuously.

Furthermore, considering the permeabilization pre-extraction, the developed method is advantageous both with respect to thermal or mechanical treatments because it does not produce damage to the product, and compared to treatment with enzymes or solvents because it does not require any chemical product and therefore does not pollute the extract.




  • Technology extremely mild without thermal effects and mechanical stresses.
  • Ability to operate continuously for pumpable foods.
  • Availability at Prodal of continuous pilot plant for the testing of products and batch plants to the development of  new products.
  • Interesting perspectives on the extraction pre-treatments of nutraceutical ingredients unstable at temperature or mechanical stresses.



  • Method applies only to liquid foods and pastes regarding to the pasteurization.
  • Need to optimize the process on solid matrices, including through the design of new contact cell, regarding to the permeabilization pre-extraction.



Stage of development of ProdAl


ProdAl has extensive experience on the interactions between electric fields and foods and on the operation of  both discontinuous and continuous PEF plants.

It was designed a pilot plant (with capacity up to 100 liters/h) for the continuous treatment of liquid foods (in the next figure is shown in orange the stage of development of ProdAl research in this technology).




It is possible to develop treatments of pasteurization or permeabilization for different products and to design treatment cells and plants.





Food and pharmaceutical industry.



Forms of collaboration

  • Agreements for the prototyping and the market launch of new products treated PEF, with a view to partnership in the sale.
  • Agreements for licensing of exploitation exclusive or in partnership.
  • Consultations on the industrial exploitation of the technology with impact on research activities.

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