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Material and energy

Fluid-flow theory
Fluid-flow applications
Heat-transfer theory

separation processes


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Heat transfer is an operation that occurs repeatedly in the food industry. Whether it is called cooking, baking, drying, sterilizing or freezing, heat transfer is part of the processing of almost every food. An understanding of the principles that govern heat transfer is essential to an understanding of food processing.

Heat transfer is a dynamic process in which heat is transferred spontaneously from one body to another cooler body. The rate of heat transfer depends upon the differences in temperature between the bodies, the greater the difference in temperature, the greater the rate of heat transfer.

Temperature difference between the source of heat and the receiver of heat is therefore the driving force in heat transfer. An increase in the temperature difference, increases the driving force and therefore increases the rate of heat transfer. The heat passing from one body to another travels through some medium which in general offers resistance to the heat flow. Both these factors, the temperature difference and the resistance to heat flow, affect the rate of heat transfer. As with other rate processes, these factors are connected by the general equation:

       rate of transfer = driving force / resistance

For heat transfer:

rate of heat transfer = temperature difference/ heat flow resistance of medium

During processing, temperatures may change and therefore the rate of heat transfer will change. This is called unsteady state heat transfer, in contrast to steady state heat transfer when the temperatures do not change. An example of unsteady state heat transfer is the heating and cooling of cans in a retort to sterilize the contents. Unsteady state heat transfer is more complex since an additional variable, time, enters into the rate equations.

Heat can be transferred in three ways: by conduction, by radiation and by convection.

In conduction, the molecular energy is directly exchanged, from the hotter to the cooler regions, the molecules with greater energy communicating some of this energy to neighbouring molecules with less energy. An example of conduction is the heat transfer through the solid walls of a refrigerated store.

Radiation is the transfer of heat energy by electromagnetic waves, which transfer heat from one body to another, in the same way as electromagnetic light waves transfer light energy. An example of radiant heat transfer is when a foodstuff is passed below a bank of electric resistance heaters that are red-hot.

Convection is the transfer of heat by the movement of groups of molecules in a fluid. The groups of molecules may be moved by either density changes or by forced motion of the fluid. An example of convection heating is cooking in a jacketed pan: without a stirrer, density changes cause heat transfer by natural convection; with a stirrer, the convection is forced.

In general, heat is transferred in solids by conduction, in fluids by conduction and convection. Heat transfer by radiation occurs through open space, can often be neglected, and is most significant when temperature differences are substantial. In practice, the three types of heat transfer may occur together. For calculations it is often best to consider the mechanisms separately, and then to combine them where necessary.

Heat Transfer Theory > CONDUCTION

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Unit Operations in Food Processing. Copyright © 1983, R. L. Earle. :: Published by NZIFST (Inc.)
NZIFST - The New Zealand Institute of Food Science & Technology