“Freezing with liquid nitrogen is fast but above all a sustainable solution”

AirProducts produces and supplies gases and technical services, with which clients can improve product quality and productivity in an environmentally friendly manner. The company operates in a wide range of industries, from metal and construction to healthcare and food.

Gas use in fruit and vegetables
In fresh produce, food-safe gases are used for various applications, including MAP (modified atmosphere packaging), cooling and freezing. “Fruit and vegetables actually are directly eligible for the use of MAP gases, which can extend the shelf life of certain fresh products through gas packaging,” Erik Brandes says. “MAP consists of the three gases carbon dioxide, nitrogen and oxygen. With this method, the normal environmental air is used in a different manner. Every product has, depending on the product properties, its own ideal atmosphere in which decay is delayed.”

Cooling and freezing with liquid nitrogen
For cooling and freezing, the cold produced from nitrogen is used. “The liquid nitrogen is extremely cold, making it possible to freeze products very quickly,” he explains. “When freezing fruit and vegetables, we’re seeing our Freshline solutions being used increasingly often. IQF products (individually frozen) have really taken off in recent years. The products pass through a so-called tunnel freezer and are frozen individually in a very brief period of time. A major advantage of this is dosability. In addition, there is less weight loss of liquids, and the taste and texture of the products is maintained better.” The use of nitrogen as a liquid cooling agent can also be used to cool fruit and vegetables, but he says that isn’t used a lot yet.

From frozen to refrigerated
Another, relatively new method in the Freshline range from AirProducts is Superfresh. This process combines cryogenic freezing (using liquid nitrogen) with packaging under protected atmosphere (MAP). After defrosting, the frozen products get a quality and shelf life comparable to refrigerated products, which are packaged under protected atmosphere. The external qualities, taste and texture also remain intact longer thanks to the new technology. “You then no longer have to list on the label that the product was frozen. For suppliers, this means they can offer the products refrigerated,” Erik says. “This solution can be particularly useful in a high season or with special product requirements, because the products can be stored and distributed in a frozen state with Superfresh, and defrosted they are not inferior to refrigerated products.”

Why is cooling and freezing with nitrogen sustainable? “We just get the nitrogen out of the air. Nearly 80 percent of the air surrounding us consists of nitrogen. So with this solution significantly less energy is needed on the spot than with mechanical cooling,” Erik concludes.

More information:
Air products
Erik Brandes

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