Ahmed Mohamed Taha Abdelhamid Alfa, a chemist in the Department of Functional Materials and Electronics at FTMC, has become a PhD. He defended his thesis on "Effects of Pulsed Electric Field on the Structural and Techno-Functional Properties of Proteins" (scientific supervisor: Dr. Arūnas Stirkė, scientific advisor: Assoc. Prof. Dr. Federico Casanova).
Congratulations to our colleague, good luck and inspiration in the next stages!
The researcher is working on Pulsed Electric Field (PEF) technology, which delivers lightning-fast pulses of high-voltage electricity (a million times shorter than a second) to liquid or semi-liquid foods placed between two electrodes. Why do we need this? According to Ahmed, this technique holds great promise for the food industry. And even now it is already producing results.
"PEF assists the extraction of beneficial plant-based compounds like polyphenols and carotenoids, known for their health-boosting properties such as antioxidants and anti-inflammatory effects.
Moreover, PEF is being utilized in food safety to provide an alternative to traditional pasteurization methods. This technology effectively eliminates harmful bacteria from liquid foods such as milk and juices. Unlike conventional heat treatments, PEF stands out by its capability to target and eliminate microorganisms at remarkably low temperatures. This is crucial to preserve essential vitamins, preventing their destruction due to high temperatures," explains chemist.
According to Taha, PEF is a promising eco-friendly technology because it processes foodstuffs quickly, emits less CO2, and uses less energy. Researchers are exploring how PEF can be used with solid foods like potatoes:
"The findings indicate that using PEF before frying potatoes can make peeling easier and cut down on the amount of oil needed for frying. Some companies are currently working on creating new PEF instruments designed for various uses with both liquid and solid materials. We think that PEF technology will find even more uses in the future."
Ahmed's thesis concentrates on investigating how PEF affects the structure of proteins and the interactions between proteins and other molecules within food systems. Proteins play a crucial role not only in our diet but also in various industrial applications.
For instance, proteins serve as stabilizers in food emulsions and act as a core material for encapsulating drugs and supplements. Alterations in protein structures through techniques like PEF have the potential to enhance the techno-functional properties of proteins, making them more effective in industrial applications.
(Dr. Ahmed Mohamed Taha Abdelhamid Alfa. Photo: FTMC)
"The study looked at how PEF treatment affects the interaction between protein (bovine serum albumin, BSA) and starch. PEF, used at a certain strength, facilitated protein/starch conjugation, and improved the ability of BSA/starch mixtures for stabilizing emulsions in food and pharmaceutical applications.
Another part of the study used PEF to change the structure of milk protein casein, this could improve the emulsifying and gelling abilities of casein. PEF also changed the structure of BSA and enhanced its binding with tea polyphenol (EGCG).
In general, the application of PEF has shown improvements in various aspects such as protein solubility, emulsion stability, and structural modifications. This increased efficiency not only contributes to better food quality but can also lead to resource savings, making food processing more economical and sustainable," says a new PhD.