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65388997 Indirect Solar Food Dryer

65388997 Indirect Solar Food Dryer

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Published by: lambert on Sep 29, 2011
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62
Home Power #57 February / March 1997 
Homebrew
Food scientists have found that by reducing themoisture content of food to between 10 and 20%,bacteria, yeast, mold and enzymes are all preventedfrom spoiling it. The flavor and most of the nutritionalvalue is preserved and concentrated. Vegetables, fruits,meat, fish and herbs can all be dried and can bepreserved for several years in many cases. They onlyhave 1/3 to 1/6 the bulk of raw, canned or frozen foodsand only weigh about 1/6 that of the fresh food product.They don’t require any special storage equipment andare easy to transport.The solar dryer which will be described in this article iseasy to build with locally available tools and materials(for the most part) for about $150 and operates simplyby natural convection. It can dry a full load of fruit orvegetables (7–10 lbs) thinly sliced in two sunny to partlysunny days in our humid Appalachian climate or asmaller load in one good sunny day. Obviously theamount of sunshine and humidity will affectperformance, with better performance on clear, sunnyand less humid days. However, some drying does takeplace on partly cloudy days and food can be dried inhumid climates. The dryer was developed atAppalachian State University in the Department ofTechnology’s Appropriate Technology Program. Overthe last 12 years we have designed, built, and testedquite a few dryers and this one has been our best. Itwas originally developed for the Honduras SolarEducation Project, which Appalachian Stateimplemented several years ago. The prototype for thatproject was constructed by Chuck Smith, a graduatestudent in the Technology Department. Amy Martin,another Appalachian student, constructed the modifiedand improved version depicted in this article. Solardryers are a good way to introduce students to solarthermal energy technology. They have the same basiccomponents as do all low temperature solar thermalenergy conversion systems. They can be easilyconstructed at the school for small sums of money andin a fairly short amount of time, and they work very well.While conceptually a simple technology, solar drying ismore complex than one might imagine and much stillneeds to be learned about it. Perfecting this technology
D
rying is our oldestmethod of foodpreservation. Forseveral thousand yearspeople have beenpreserving dates, figs,apricots, grapes, herbs,potatoes, corn, milk, meat,and fish by drying. Untilcanning was developed atthe end of the 18th century,drying was virtually the onlymethod of foodpreservation. It is still themost widely used method.Drying is an excellent wayto preserve food and solarfood dryers are anappropriate foodpreservation technology fora sustainable world.
The Design, Construction, and Use of an
Indirect, Through-Pass, Solar Food Dryer
Dennis Scanlin
 ©1997 Dennis Scanlin
 
63
Home Power #57 February / March 1997 
Homebrew
has been one of our goals and while we are not thereyet, over the years we have come up with somedesigns that work pretty well. This article will describeguidelines for designing, constructing and using a solarfood dryer.
Factors affecting food drying
There are three major factors affecting food drying:temperature, humidity and air flow. They are interactive.Increasing the vent area by opening vent covers willdecrease the temperature and increase the air flow,without having a great effect on the relative humidity ofthe entering air. In general more air flow is desired inthe early stages of drying to remove free water or wateraround the cells and on the surface. Reducing the ventarea by partially closing the vent covers will increasethe temperature and decrease the relative humidity ofthe entering air and the air flow. Thiswould be the preferred set up duringthe later stages of drying when thebound water needs to be driven outof the cells and to the surface.
Temperature
There is quite a diversity of opinionon the ideal drying temperatures.Food begins cooking at 180˚F soone would want to stay under thistemperature. All opinions surveyedfall between 95°and 180˚F, with110°–140˚F being most common.Recommended temperatures varydepending on the food bring dried.Our experience thus far and theresearch of quite a few others leadsto the conclusion that in generalhigher temperatures (up to 180˚F)increase the speed of drying. Onestudy found that it tookapproximately 5 times as long to dry food at 104˚F as itdid at 176˚F. Higher temperatures (135°–180˚F) alsodestroy bacteria, enzymes (158˚F), fungi, eggs andlarvae. Food will be pasteurized if it is exposed to 135˚Ffor 1 hour or 176˚F for 10–15 min. Most bacteria will bedestroyed at 165˚F and all will be prevented fromgrowing between 140°–165°. Between 60°and 140˚Fbacteria can grow and many will survive, althoughbacteria, yeasts and molds all require 13% or moremoisture content for growth which they won’t have inmost dried foods.
Some recommended drying temperatures are:Fruits and Vegetables:
(except beans and rice):100°–130°F (Wolf, 1981); 113°–140°(NTIS, 1982);temperatures over 65°C (149°F) can result in sugarcaramelization of many fruit products
Meat:
140°–150°F (Wolf, 1981)
Fish:
no higher than 131°F (NTIS, 1982); 140°-150°(Wolf, 1981)
Herbs:
95°–105°F (Wolf, 1981)
Livestock Feed:
75°C (167°F) maximum temperature.(NTIS, 1982)
Rice,Grains,Seeds,Brewery Grains:
45°C (113°F)maximum temperature. (NTIS, 1982)
Temperatures Obtainable in our Appalachian Dryer
Our Appalachian dryer, with a reflector added, hasreached temperatures over 200˚F on a sunny 75˚F daywith all the vents closed. Preliminary experiences with a4' long reflector have demonstrated a 20˚F rise in theAbove: Yum...the apples are almost ready.Below: Adjusting the vents and testing (tasting?) the progress.
 
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Time of Day for October 13, 1996
Chart 2
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Home Power #57 February / March 1997 
Homebrew
dryer temperature and a decrease in drying time. Byfully opening the vents the temperature can be broughtdown to within 10°or 20°higher than the ambienttemperature. The dryer can operate for most of the daybetween 120°and 155˚F by opening the exhaust vents1–2" (10–20 sq. in.). These are the temperatures at thebottom of the food drying area when the dryer has justbeen filled with food and a reflector is being used. Thetemperature drops significantly as it passes through themoist food. Chart 1 shows: the temperatures below thebottom tray of food, the temperatures above the top trayof food, and the ambient temperatures, right after a fullload of 25 sliced apples (about 8 lbs) had been placedin the dryer. The dryer on this day had a reflector on it.It was a clear sunny day with relative humiditiesbetween 62 and 93%. By the end of the day, apples onbottom 5 trays were dry, some apples on top 5 trayswere not. The temperatures were recorded with a PaceScientific Pocket Logger, model XR220, 1401McLaughlin Drive, P.O. Box 10069, Charlotte, NC28212, (704) 5683691Chart 2 shows a dryer operating in the afternoon of itssecond day of drying a load of food. One can see howthe temperatures increase in the top of the dryer, as thefood in the top of the dryer dries. This test was notusing a reflector. By the end of this day all apples sliceswere bone dry, almost like crackers.
Possible temperature related problems
There are a couple of potential problems associatedwith higher temperatures. One study reported slightlyhigher vitamin C loss in fruits dried at 167˚F than at131˚F. Greater vitamin loss has also been reported forthe direct style of food dryer which exposes the fooddirectly to the sun’s radiation (ASES, 1983). However,there are many other factors that affect vitamin loss andthe losses are different for different foods and differentvitamins. I need to explore this topic more fully.Case hardening is another potential problem associatedwith drying at higher temperatures. If the temperature ofair is high and the relative humidity is low, there is thepossibility that surface moisture will be removed morerapidly than interior moisture can migrate to the surface.The surface can harden and retard the further loss ofmoisture. Solar dryers start off at low temperatures andhigh humidity and thus avoid this problem, I believe. Atleast I have not observed it.
Air flow and velocity
The second of three factors affecting food drying is airflow, which is the product of the air velocity and ventarea. The drying rate increases as the velocity andquantity of hot air flowing over the food increases.Natural convection air flow is proportional to vent area,dryer height (from air intake to air exhaust), andtemperature. However air flow is also inverselyproportional to the temperature in a solar dryer. As theair flow increases by opening an exhaust vent the dryertemperature will decrease. Ideally one would want bothhigh temperatures and air flow. This can be difficult toachieve in a solar dryer.Air velocity in a natural convection collector is affectedby the distance between the air inlet and air exhaust,the temperature inside the dryer and the vent area. Thegreater the distance, temperature and vent area thegreater the velocity. It is often measured in feet perminute (FPM) or meters per second. With constanttemperatures, 230 FPM air velocity drys twice asrapidly as still air; at 460 FPM drying occurs three timesmore rapidly than in still air (Desrosier, 1963). Axtell &Bush (1991) suggest air velocities between 0.5 to 1.5meters per second which is about 100 to 300 FPM.Desrosier (1963) suggests even higher air velocitiesbetween 300 to 1000 FPM.The quantity of air, measured in cubic feet per minute(CFM) or cubic meters per minute, is the product ofvelocity and area of the exhaust vent. Morris (1981)recommends 2–4 CFM per square foot of collector foran efficient performing natural convection solar airheater. If the air flows are too slow the collector will heat
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Time of Day for October 15, 1996
Chart 1

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