Ultraviolet (UV) light is a potent technology that has been successfully deployed for decades in diverse industries ranging from pharmaceuticals, food & beverage, cosmetics, health care, to aquaculture. Properly designed UV disinfection systems can be used for various applications such as disinfection of water, surface disinfection, ozone destruction, and chlorine destruction. This blog will help you to understand the applications and benefits of UV water disinfection technology in the food and beverage industry for the production of high purity water.
The fundamental UV wavelength used for water disinfection is 254 nm (= 2540 Å). UV light at this wavelength has the unique ability to destroy microorganisms and therefore can be effectively used for water disinfection. It works by penetrating the outer cell-wall of the microorganism and altering the genetic material (DNA) by killing it. At higher doses, this same UV radiation can be used for chlorine and ozone destruction.
concentrated syrups have a high osmotic pressure which prevents microorganisms from growing and reproducing. However, they will survive in spore form and grow once the syrup is diluted into the food product or beverage. This microbial growth can cause food discoloration, affect the flavors, and shorten shelf life.
For the beverage industry, in particular, the disinfection of liquid sweetener is very crucial. Since the UV transmission characteristic of such liquids is very low, specially designed UV disinfection systems are required for treating such streams. These systems use high output UV lamps which are packed much closer together to ensure proper UV dose distribution.
UV radiation has successfully been proven to destroy residual chlorine present in water. It has been found that up to 1.0 ppm of chlorine can be completely destroyed by using high doses of UV. The exact UV dosage will depend on the chlorine concentration and the feed water quality.
Conventionally, either activated carbon beds or chemicals such as sodium meta-bisulfite have been used to remove the residual chlorine. However, such methods have drawbacks. For instance, the activated carbon beds act as a hotbed for bacterial growth and can cause serious microbial problems downstream. Further, there is a significant running cost involved with recharging/replacing these beds. UV water disinfection system can be used to destroy the chlorine and eliminate the need for chemical handling, bacteria problems, and so on.
Ozone is commonly used as an in-line sanitizing agent in the beverage industry. It ensures that the storage tanks, piping, pumps, valves, and so on remain bacteria-free. However, this residual ozone needs to be completely destroyed before this water can be used in the end-product. In such cases, UV disinfection technology is the proven method of choice as it is an instant reaction and does not involve using any chemicals.
Again, it is important that the UV water disinfection system be well designed as a very high UV dose is required. The size of the UV system required depends on the operating flow rate, ozone concentration, quality of feed water and the temperature of the stream. In general, a UV dose of 90,000 uWs/cm2 is required to destroy 1.0 ppm of residual ozone.
From disinfection of water, we now talk about surface disinfection of meat, fish, poultry, fruits, and vegetables. Let’s take the case of fresh fruits and vegetables that are cleaned, packed and sold by importers and packagers for supermarket chains. The objective here would be to destroy microbial contaminants such as bacteria and fungi that occur naturally on fruits and vegetables and which are responsible for premature spoiling. In such a case, UV disinfection systems can play an important role in destroying surface contamination and extending the shelf life of the raw produce. Only a few seconds of exposure can achieve up to 99.999% destruction of common microbiological contaminants which are problematic in the food industry. This predetermined time and dosage will be adjusted to sterilize the pathogens depending on the nature of the produce.
Based on the above, one will agree that UV water disinfection is a very useful, effective and reliable tool for the food and beverage industry. However, one important point to remember with UV water disinfection systems is that they are effective and reliable only when carefully sized, maintained and monitored. The company supplying the UV disinfection systems should have in-house expertise in design, engineering, supply, installation, and commissioning of the unit. They should also be able to provide dependable after sales service and be able to troubleshoot at sight. Further, it is very important that the systems be validated because without this, there is no way to prove that the given UV water disinfection system is able to meet disinfection requirements under a variety of conditions.
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