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Experimental Determination of Thermal Conductivity of Apple and Potato at Different Moisture Contents
G. Donsi, G. Ferrari & R. Nigro
Universitri di Salerno, Dipartimcnto di lngegneria Chimica e Alimentarc, Via Ponte Don

Melillo. 84084 Fisciano, Italy (Received Y January 1996; revised 2Y February IYYh:accepted 1 June IYY6)

ABSTRACT Thermal conductivity of apple and potato samples was measured by means of a specificully designed apparatus based on Fitchs method. The thermal conductivity was determined at various moisture contents at the sample mean temperature of 30C. As expected the conductivity decreases with the decrease in moisture content. Thermal conductivity data were correlated with moisture content using a straight line. Copyright 0 1996 Elselier Science Limited


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Sample area, m2 Specific heat of copper plug (J/kgC) Effective thermal conductivity (W/m.(Z) Sample thickness, m Mass of copper plug (g) Time (s) Temperature (C) Water mass fraction (g/g initial water content) INTRODUCTION

The achievement of a high and constant quality of products is the challenge for the food industry at the end of the 1990s. Apart from the supply of raw materials of high quality, this aim requires that the operation of food processing plants is reliable and fully controlled. This, in turn, requires new design criteria for the relevant apparatus, based on a complete model description of the process. So far, design procedures of food processing plants are mostly dependent on practice and on scalcmathematical modelling is limited to very few up criteria, while complete 263

G. Donsi et al.

applications. This is also related, and it is not clear whether as an effect or as a cause, to the lack of systematic physical data, which are the input variables of any model. Some data of basic physical properties are reported in the literature, but almost all of them refer to measurements in specific conditions and for specific foods (Miles, 1991; Mohsenin, 1980). As a consequence, predictive wide range correlations are almost non-existent. Among the physical properties relevant to process modelling, thermal conductivity is one of the most critical, being the controlling parameter of almost all thermal processes, like drying, sterilization, freezing and thawing. In particular, the performance of mild preservation technologies, like vacuum and freeze drying, is strictly dependent on the thermal conductivity of the product. This property is very sensitive to moisture content, but also to structure modifications occurring during processes (Lozano, 1983). In spite of its influence on process design, no systematic evaluation of thermal conductivity data of foods has been performed, and the few existing predictive models are very complicated, requiring as input parameters data more difficult to measure than thermal conductivity itself (Mattea, 1986, 1989). The aim of this work is to determine thermal conductivity of foodstuffs as a function of moisture content by means of an apparatus based on Fitchs unsteady method and to obtain a simple equation to correlate experimental data.

EXPERIMENTAL Test materials were Stark Delicious apples and Bintjie potatoes. Chemical analyses were carried out on fresh samples, according to standard methods, to determine the mass fractions of main components relevant to heat transfer phenomena, i.e. water, cellulose, sugar and starch. The amounts of the components are shown in Table 1. Samples at different moisture content were prepared by partial dehydration of fresh materials in a freeze dryer, in order to minimize structure deformations. A uniform profile of residual moisture was obtained by keeping the sample wrapped in a polyethilene film for at least 30 min at ambient conditions. The determination of

Chemical Constituent


of Stark Delicious

TABLE 1 Apple and Bintjie Wet Basis

Potato Evaluated

on Dry and

Apple Sk (dty basis) gig (wet basis) 0.844 0.156 0.1218 0.0342 &!k (dry basis) 3.35 1 0.848 0.096 0.0560

Potato gk (wet basis) 0.77 0.23 0.195 0.022 0.013

Initial water content Dry matter Starch Soluble sugar Cell matter

5.41 1 0.781 0.219

thermal conductivity was carried out by means of a quasi-steady technique, derived from the original work of Fitch (Mohsenin, 1980; Zuritz, 1989). The sketch of the apparatus is shown in Fig. 1. It consists of a water tank, at controlled temperature. acting as thermal ballast, fitted with a heat sink that includes the sample holder. The heat sink is a copper plug containing the sample to be tested. Samples are cylinders having a maximum diameter of 43 mm and thickness between 2 and 6 mm. Heat flow is established between the hot water reservoir and the copper plug, the conductivity of which is much higher than the walls, if the apparatus is properly insulated. The transient temperature rise of the copper plug is measured by a thermocouple, fitted to the plug axis. As the only thermal resistance due to the sample, whose conductivity is one order of magnitude lower than that of copper. the thermal balance of the plug can be written as: A.k.(T-T,) L and integrated in the form: In with the initial conditions: T = T,, at t = 0. A.k L~m;C,,, .t (3 = m,..C,,; dT dt (1)

Fig. 1. Fitch-type


used for thermal conductivity regime.


in 21quasi-steady


G. Donsi et al.

Equation (2) implies that a plot of the log of the temperature ratio vs time is a straight line. Thermal conductivity can be determined from the slope (A-k/ L .m;C,,). An example of such plots is shown in Fig. 2. The best fitting of the linear part of the temperature-time history was chosen optimizing the 2 correlation coefficient, disregarding the initial and the final points, corresponding to an initial transient heat transfer and a steady heat transfer respectively. The temperaturetime relationship was considered linear when the correlation coefficient was equal or greater than 0.996. The original design of this apparatus has been modified and optimized in order to: minimize the contact thermal resistance between sample and plug; reduce heat accumulation in the plug; minimize heat dispersion; minimize the temperature difference between hot and cold sources; lower measuring time, to avoid moisture changes during tests; keep a high value of the ratio between thermal resistance of the insulating material and sample. The last requirement is very critical for measurements performed at low moisture contents. In this range, in fact, thermal conductivity is very low and radial thermal losses cannot be disregarded. In these extreme situations, a steady-state method is to be preferred. The apparatus has been calibrated with a sample of known conductivity. The calibration factor, defined as the ratio between measured and true conductivity, is 0.97 for a calibration conductivity of 0.15 W m-C .

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Fig. 2. Example

time, min of a plot of In (temperature ratio) vs time from a thermal measurement of a potato sample (r? = 0.9978).


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0.4 06 08 IO

02 Fig. 3. Thermal conductivity

Xw, water mass fraction

of tested materials

as a function

of water mass fraction.

RESULTS In Fig. 3 thermal conductivity of apple and potato, measured at a mean sample temperature of 3OC, is shown as a function of water mass fraction of the sample. Each point represents an average of at least three measurements. Thermal conductivity decreases as moisture content decreases. For water mass fraction up to 0.4, data of both materials have a similar value, while for higher values of moisture content, thermal conductivity of potato is 20% higher than that of apple. Thermal conductivity of fresh product is 052 and 0.43 W m C for potato and apple respectively. These data are in good agreement with those found in the literature (Miles, 1991; Lozano, 1979; Lamberg, 1986; Wang, 1992). Experimental data were correlated using a linear regression as shown in Fig. 3, whose constants, calculated within a 95% confidence interval, are given in Table 2. Thermal conductivity data follow the linear correlation suggested by Sweat (1074) in the range of moisture content considered.

Estimated Sumpk Potato Apple

Values of the Constants u 0.389 0.322

TABLE 2 of the Linear Correlation

Analysis with Yi% Confidcncc ,. 11 (I.970 (1.071

0.1445 0. I263


G. Donsi et al.

CONCLUSIONS The present study presents an unsteady-state measurement technique for thermal conductivity which allows reliable determination at high and medium moisture contents in short times. This avoids consistent moisture evaporation during the test. The technique is applied to apple and potato. The decrease of thermal conductivity with moisture content is confirmed. The correlation of experimental data with a simple linear relationship gives a tool for the prediction with high accuracy of the thermal conductivity of these vegetables in the entire range of moisture content.

of potatoes and a computer simulation model of a blanching process. J. Food Techno!., 21, 577. Lozano, J. E., Urbicain, M. J. 6i Rotstein, E. (1979). Thermal conductivity of apples as a function of moisture content. .I. Food Sk., 44, 1198. Lozano, J. E., Rotstein, E. & Urbicain, M. J. (1983). Shrinkage, porosity and bulk density of foodstuffs at changing moisure content. J. Food Sci., 48, 1497. Mattea, M., Urbicain, M. J. & Rotstein, E. (1986). Prediction of thermal conductivity of vegetable foods by the effective medium theory. .I. Food Sci., 51(l), 113. Mattea, M., Urbicain, M. J. & Rotstein, E. (1989). Effective thermal conductivity of cellular tissue during drying: prediction by a computer assisted model. .I. Food Sci., 54(l), 194. Miles, C. A., van Beek, G. & Vcerkamp, C. H. (1991). Calculation of thermophisical properties of foods. In Physical Properties of Foods, ed. R. Jowitt. Applied Science Publisher, UK. Mohsenin, N. N. (1980). Thermal Properties of Foods and Agricultural Materials. Gordon and

Lamberg, I. & Hallstrom, B. (1986). Thermal properties

Breach, New York.

Sweat, V. E. (1974). Experimental values of thermal conductivity of selected fruits and vegetables. J. Food Sci., 39, 1080. Wang, N. & Brennan, J. G. (1992). Thermal conductivity of potato as a function of moisture content. .I. Food Etzgng, 17, 153-160. Zuritz, C. A., Sastry, S. K., McCoy, S. C., Murakami, E. G. & Blaisdell, J. L. (1989). A modified Fitch device for measuring the thermal conductivity of small food particles.
A.S.A.E., 32(2), 711.