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SCT 363-2

Physical Characteristics of Food Materials

Important properties of Food Materials

Physical properties of foods are manifestations of a foods chemical composition and

structural organization over several orders of length scales from the molecular to the
macroscopic. A change in either composition or structure usually results in a
simultaneous change in several properties.
Thermal properties
Optical properties
Electrical properties,
Mechanical properties
Thermal Properties
Most processed and fresh foods receive some type of heating or cooling during handling or
manufacturing. Design and operation of processes that involve heat transfer require special
attention due to the heat-sensitivity of foods. Thermal properties play an important role in
the design and prediction of heat transfer operations during the handling, processing,
canning, storing, and distribution of foods. Modes of Heat Transfer as follows.
Transfer of heat by electromagnetic waves (as in a microwave oven).
The transfer of thermal energy due to molecular oscillations (for example, heating of food by
direct fire through metal containers).
Transfer of heat by bulk movement of molecules in heated fluids such as liquids or gases (for
example, air in heated oven or in tank during juice evaporation).
Heat transport properties
Specific heat Cp,
The amount of heat needed to raise the temperature of unit mass by unit degree at a given
temperature. The SI units for Cp are therefore (kJ kg1 K1).It is common to use the constant
pressure specific heat, Cp, which thermodynamically represents the change in enthalpy H (kJ
Kg1) for a given change in temperature T when it occurs at constant pressure P.

= ( )

Only with gasses is it necessary to distinguish between Cp and Cv, the specific heat at a constant
volume. Assuming there is no phase change, the amount of heat Q that must be added to a
unit mass M (kg of mass or specific weight kg/m3) to raise the temperature from T2 to T1
can be calculated using the following equation
= ( )
Thermal conductivity
Represents the quantity of heat Q that flows per unit time through a food of unit thickness
and unit area having unit temperature difference between faces; SI units for Q are [W m 1K1].
In other words, represents the ability of the food to transmit heat.
Department of Science Technology UWU

SCT 363-2


Physical Characteristics of Food Materials

(_ _)

- Surface area of the food,

- Thickness,
- Temperature at the outer surface where heat is absorbed
- Temperature at the inner surface.

Thermal diffusivity
SI units [m2/s], defines the rate at which heat diffuses by conduction through a food
composite. Expressed in terms of Cp, density and k Thermal diffusivity determines the
speed of heat of three-dimensional propagation or diffusion through the material. It is
represented by the rate at which temperature changes in a certain volume of food

Optical Properties
Visual assessment has a central role in the food industry. In the case of foods, the main optical
property considered by consumers in evaluating quality is color, followed by gloss and
translucency or turbidity among other properties.

A beam of light composed of irregularly distributed energy emitted at different wavelengths.
Foods, along with other materials, have color properties, which depend exclusively on their
composition and structure.
Department of Science Technology UWU

SCT 363-2

Physical Characteristics of Food Materials

Light specularly reflected from a plain smooth surface.
Large number of products are translucent, that are neither opaque nor completely transparent.
In this kind of product light is reflected, absorbed, transmitted, and scattered, and the objective
measurement of optical properties present serious difficulties.
Electrical Properties
There are two main electrical properties in food engineering: electrical conductivity and electrical
permittivity. Electrical properties are important when processing foods involving electric
fields, electric current conduction, or heating through electromagnetic waves. These properties
are also useful in the detection of processing conditions or the quality of foods.
Electrical conductivity
Measure of how well electric current flows through a food (unit cross-sectional area a, unit
length L, and resistance R.) is expressed in SI units S/m in the following relation:
Electrical permittivity
Dielectric property used to explain interactions of foods with electric fields. It determines the
interaction of electromagnetic waves with matter and defines the charge density under an
electric field. In solids, liquid, and gases the permittivity depends on two values:
Dielectric constant , related to the capacitance of a substance and its ability to store
electrical energy; and the dielectric loss factor , related to energy losses when the food is
subjected to an alternating electrical field (i.e., dielectric relaxation and ionic
Mechanical Properties
Density, shrinkage, porosity and some of the strength related properties are discussed here.
The importance of these properties can be identified with following application.
Process design, operation, and optimization
Product characterization Quality determination
Estimation of other properties ( Thermal conductivity of food material using the
porosity of the individual components of diffusion coefficient of shrinkage systems
using porosity and volume change)
Handling of food material
Grading of fruits and vegetables
Separation if impurities in food materials b density differences
Estimation of Floor space during the storage and transportation
Mass per unit volume (the SI unit of density is kg/m3). Based on the method of volume
measurement density can be categorized as follows true, material, particle, apparent, and
bulk that can be used, depending on its application in process calculations or product
Department of Science Technology UWU

SCT 363-2

Physical Characteristics of Food Materials

characterization. In the literature most of the density data is correlated empirically as a

function of temperature, water, solids, and fat content. Different types of nonlinear
correlation, such as exponential, quadratic, and cubic, are used to relate density and moisture

True Density (t)

A pure substance or a composite material calculated from its

components densities considering conservation of mass and

Material Density(m)

A material has been thoroughly in to pieces small enough to

guarantee no closed pores remain

Particle Density(p)

A particle that has not been structurally modified and includes

the volume of all closed pores but externally connected.

Apparent Density(a)

a substance including all pores remaining in the material

Bulk Density(b)

A material when packed or stacked in bulk and is defined as

the mass of the material per the total volume it occupies

Porosity indicates the volume fraction of void space or air space inside a material. Volume
determination is relative to the amount of internal (or closed) or external (or open) pores
present in the food structure. Types of porosities include open pore, closed pore, apparent,
bulk, and total porosities.
This is the reduction in volume or geometric dimensions during processing. When
post-processing volume is larger than initial volume, it is termed as expansion.
Shrinkage occurs as a result of moisture loss (during drying), ice formation (during
freezing), and formation of pores (by drying, puffing, extrusion, and frying). Two
types of shrinkage.
Isotropic expansion
Isotropic shrinkage is described as the uniform shrinkage of the materials under all
geometric dimensions, Type of shrinkage is common in fruits and vegetables.
Anisotropic expansion
Non-uniform shrinkage develops in different geometric dimensions. Type of shrinkage
animal tissue, such as in fish.

Department of Science Technology UWU

SCT 363-2

Physical Characteristics of Food Materials

Another important parameter that come under mechanical properties of food. Food rheology
is the study of those properties of materials that control their deformation and flow behaviors
when subjected to external forces. Rheological properties include viscosity, Power law
parameters, elasticity, stress relaxation function & creep compliance function, In the study
of the Rheology its two of the most important parameters are stress () and strain () . Strain
measure of the extent an element of material has been deformed (Change in the shape), While
strain the force per unit area

= F/A ; A =W*H
= L/Lo
= d/dt
Importance of Rheology
Design and select equipment such as pumps, pipes lines, extruders, mixers, heat
exchangers etc.
Rheological behavior relates to food texture and sensory data.
To determine ingredients functionality in product development
Shelf life testing
To obtain some information about atomic and molecular scale phenomena

Department of Science Technology UWU