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Modelling of microwave heating of a frozen meal

Researchers from the University of Nebraska (USA) developed a 3-dimensional (3-D) multiphysics model to understand the microwave heating process of a real heterogeneous food, multilayered frozen lasagna, and the results were published on the Journal of Food Science. 80, (12): E2803-E2814, 2015.
Near-perfect 3-D geometries of food package and microwave oven were used. A multiphase porous media model combining the electromagnetic heat source with heat and mass transfer, and incorporating phase change of melting and evaporation was included in finite element model. Discrete rotation of food on the turntable was incorporated. The model simulated for 6 min of microwave cooking of a 450 g frozen lasagna kept at the center of the rotating turntable in a 1200 W domestic oven.
Temperature-dependent dielectric and thermal properties of lasagna ingredients were measured and provided as inputs to the model. Simulated temperature profiles were compared with experimental temperature profiles obtained using a thermal imaging camera and fiber-optic sensors. The total moisture loss in lasagna was predicted and compared with the experimental moisture loss during cooking. The simulated spatial temperature patterns predicted at the top layer was in good agreement with the corresponding patterns observed in thermal images. Predicted point temperature profiles at 6 different locations within the meal were compared with experimental temperature profiles and root mean square error (RMSE) values ranged from 6.6° to 20.0°C. The predicted total moisture loss matched well with an RMSE value of 0.54 g. Different layers of food components showed considerably different heating performance.
Food product developers can use this model for designing food products by understanding the effect of thickness and order of each layer, and material properties of each layer, and packaging shape on cooking performance. The validated model can be used to design food system to minimize nonuniform heating of frozen heterogeneous meals in various microwave ovens.

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