Food Science and Technology Department


Date of this Version

Spring 4-23-2015


Pitchai, K., 2015. A finite element method based microwave heat transfer modeling of multi-component foods. PhD Dissertation, University of Nebraska-Lincoln.


A DISSERTATION Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy, Major: Food Science and Technology, Under the Supervision of Professor Jeyamkondan Subbiah. Lincoln, Nebraska: April, 2015

Copyright (c) 2015 Krishnamoorthy Pitchai


Microwave heating is fast and convenient, but is highly non-uniform. Non-uniform heating in microwave cooking affects not only food quality but also food safety. Most food industries develop microwavable food products based on “cook-and-look” approach. This approach is time-consuming, labor intensive and expensive and may not result in optimal food product design that assures food safety and quality. Design of microwavable food can be realized through a simulation model which describes the physical mechanisms of microwave heating in mathematical expressions. The objective of this study was to develop a microwave heat transfer model to predict spatial and temporal profiles of various heterogeneous foods such as multi-component meal (chicken nuggets and mashed potato), multi-component and multi-layered meal (lasagna), and multi-layered food with active packages (pizza) during microwave heating. A microwave heat transfer model was developed by solving electromagnetic and heat transfer equations using finite element method in commercially available COMSOL Multiphysics v4.4 software. The microwave heat transfer model included detailed geometry of the cavity, phase change, and rotation of the food on the turntable.

The predicted spatial surface temperature patterns and temporal profiles were validated against the experimental temperature profiles obtained using a thermal imaging camera and fiber-optic sensors. The predicted spatial surface temperature profile of different multi-component foods was in good agreement with the corresponding experimental profiles in terms of hot and cold spot patterns. The root mean square error values of temporal profiles ranged from 5.8 °C to 26.2 °C in chicken nuggets as compared 4.3 °C to 4.7 °C in mashed potatoes. In frozen lasagna, root mean square error values at six locations ranged from 6.6 °C to 20.0 °C for 6 min of heating. A microwave heat transfer model was developed to include susceptor assisted microwave heating of a frozen pizza. The root mean square error values of transient temperature profiles of five locations ranged from 5.0 °C to 12.6 °C. A methodology was developed to incorporate electromagnetic frequency spectrum in the coupled electromagnetic and heat transfer model. Implementing the electromagnetic frequency spectrum in the simulation improved the accuracy of temperature field pattern and transient temperature profile as compared to mono-chromatic frequency of 2.45 GHz. The bulk moisture diffusion coefficient of cooked pasta was calculated as a function of temperature at a constant water activity using desorption isotherms.

Adviser: Jeyamkondan Subbiah