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At FoodTech Qld, CSIRO research scientist Ciara McDonnell spoke about novel technologies with exciting applications and implications for food and beverage processing. Kim Berry caught up with her to find out more.

Ciara McDonnell is a research scientist in the Meat Science Unit of CSIRO Agriculture and Food. She is currently working on a shockwave project funded by the Australian Meat Industry Council at CSIRO’s Coopers Plains facility.

For McDonnell one of the exciting aspects of her job is how the the novel technologies CSIRO trials, as well as the fee-for-service projects they carry out with industry, fit with current food trends.

“Novel technologies can offer clean labelling and reducing or even eliminating the need for other additives. They can often be more sustainable and environmentally friendly depending on the application,” McDonnell says.

Quite a shock

McDonnell says shockwave technology is one of the newest CSIRO has acquired. “It could have other applications, but at the moment we’re working on meat tenderisation,” she says.

The technology works by applying up to one gigapascal for microseconds. “To generate such high pressures, historically explosives were used underwater. So the safety concerns meant it was slow to evolve. Now we’re generating those levels with an electrical discharge underwater.

“The meat is in a special kind of plastic packaging that can sustain the pressure. It goes on a conveyor belt into the water, then when it’s underneath the electrodes with a gap, we emit the electrical wave and it discharges across the gap, so it arcs, and then the meat continues along the conveyor,” McDonnell explains.

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