24.10.2022 15:35 Age: 35 days

Petra Först named new Professor for Food Process Engineering

Category: Campus, Research, Top-News

Petra Först received a new professorship in Food Process Engineering at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) in October. In this short interview, she talks about what she is currently working on, what is important to her in her interaction with students, and the practical relevance of her work.

Prof. Dr.-Ing. Petra Först – Professorship for Food Process Engineering (Image: A. Eckert / TUM).

What exciting research projects are you working on?

My associates and I are working on improving processes for food technology. This involves processes for drying food as well as processes for extracting proteins from flour. In drying processes, we use X-rays to examine at a microscopic scale how the structures of samples change during drying: how pore structures of food materials as well as pharmaceuticals are affected by drying. In addition, we are using neutrons to explore how drying processes of live probiotic cultures can be improved with the use of microwaves. In an additional research project, we are exploring a new process for the dry extraction of protein-rich powders from flour as an alternative to the less sustainable extraction of proteins using solvents.

On which topics would you like to exchange ideas with students in a relaxed atmosphere?

I would enjoy dialogue with students about what the future of food is in Europe and what role plant-based food and meat substitutes should play in this. How do they see food technology making important contributions in the future?

What are some of the practical benefits of your research findings?

The development of improved models for freeze-drying shortens time-consuming development cycles and optimizes drying processes, making them more efficient. This leads to both more sustainable drying processes and higher-quality products. Microwave freeze drying, in particular, allows heat-sensitive products such as probiotic cultures and bioactive plant extracts to be dried very quickly and efficiently. This technology is currently being tested for industrial use. Extracting plant proteins with dry processes also makes it possible to sustainably produce protein-rich powders that can be subsequently used to produce alternatives to animal products or even totally new food products. In addition, because this process is more energy efficient than older technologies, it will allow meat substitute products to be offered at significantly lower prices in the future.

Publications of Prof. Petra Först:

Gruber, S.; Vorhauer-Huget, N.; Foerst, P. (2021): In situ micro-computed tomography to study microstructure and sublimation front during freeze-drying. In: Food Structure 29, S. 100213. DOI: 10.1016/j.foostr.2021.100213.

Meixner, M.; Tomasella, M.; Foerst, P.; Windt, Carel W. (2020): A small-scale MRI scanner and complementary imaging method to visualize and quantify xylem embolism formation. In: New Phytologist 226 (5), S. 1517–1529. DOI: 10.1111/nph.16442.

Gruber S, Vorhauer N, Schulz M, Hilmer M, Peters J, Tsotsas E, Foerst P: "Estimation of the local sublimation front velocities from neutron radiography and tomography of particulate matter". Chemical Engineering Science. 2020; 211. DOI: 10.1016/j.ces.2019.115268.

Foerst P, Carvalho T, Lechner M, Kovacevic T, Kim S, Kirse Ch, Briesen H: "Estimation of mass transfer rate and primary drying times during freeze-drying of frozen maltodextrin solutions based on x-ray µ-computed tomography measurements of pore size distributions". Journal of Food Engineering. 2019; 260: 50–57. DOI: 10.1016/j.jfoodeng.2019.05.002.

Landauer J, Tauwald SM, Foerst P: "A Simple µ-PTV Setup to Estimate Single-Particle Charge of Triboelectrically Charged Particles." Frontiers in Chemistry. 2019; 7. (https://mediatum.ub.tum.de/doc/1519739/1519739.pdf)

Landauer, J.; Foerst, P. (2018): Triboelectric separation of a starch-protein mixture - Impact of electric field strength and flow rate. In: Advanced Powder Technology 29 (1), S. 117–123. DOI: 10.1016/j.apt.2017.10.018.

More information:

Technical University Munich
Corporate Communications Center

Scientific Contact:
Prof. Dr.-Ing. Petra Först
TUM School of Life Sciences
Professorship of food process engineering
Tel. +49 8161 71-3289