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Microwave Technology Optimizes Moisture and Fat Analysis

Author / Editor: Ulf Sengutta* / Dipl.-Chem. Marc Platthaus

In food production, every minute counts. Due to this fact, analytical techniques which quickly provide information about the composition of foodstuffs are the solution of choice. Read on to find out how moisture and fat analysis can be performed in three steps.

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Abb. 1: The sample, which has been pre-dried, is placed into the Oracle module for fat analysis.
Abb. 1: The sample, which has been pre-dried, is placed into the Oracle module for fat analysis.
(Source: CEM)

Moisture/solids content and fat content are important control parameters during ongoing food production and at incoming inspection. However, analysis can be time-consuming, and that causes problems. It takes hours to get the results, making rapid intervention in the production process impossible. The NMR Oracle fat analyzer in combination with a microwave dryer delivers fast, high-precision results without the need for solvents or calibration. The Oracle can analyze fat in ice cream, dairy products, cream, cheese, meat, sausage, fish, animal feed, dressings, mayonnaise, butter, margarine, sour cream, yogurt, ketchup, cookies, crackers, snacks and much more. All of these foods have one thing in common. They have an extremely high water content (often up to 70%), which in the past has made fat analysis difficult.

Keys for state-of-the-art analytical instrumentation

Faster throughput, higher speed, continuous process flows, automation and standardized product quality are characteristic features of modern production. This creates new challenges for analytical instrumentation used to support and monitor the process. The requirements profile includes active occupational safety, speed, networking capability, relocation of analysis from the lab to the production floor, rugged design (glove operation) and ease of use by semi-skilled workers. Obviously, the cost aspect is a major factor in calculating the payback period for instrumentation. Indirect analysis methods are often used to generate spectra or signals. This requires product-specific calibration which increases labor costs over a period of months [1]. CEM is a specialist supplier of process analytical instrumentation. The highly versatile Oracle fat analyzer was developed to handle a very wide range of samples. No time-consuming, product-specific calibration is needed to analyze a broad range of formulations. Immediately after installation, the Oracle is ready for daily use. The high-precision system quickly determines the fat content in food samples without calibration or solvents. Analysis with the Oracle is a three-step process:

Step 1: Dry the sample in a Smart 6 microwave dryer to remove all of the water in 2 - 3 minutes. Step 2: Place the dried sample in the NMR nuclear magnetic resonance spectrometer. Step 3: Determine the fat content of the sample in the Oracle module within 30 seconds.

All of the actions needed to operate the microwave dryer and the Oracle module take place on a touch-screen. The software was designed so that following the menu-driven work instructions is similar to using a smartphone. Complex spectra such as fat signals are processed directly by the software. With a PC workers can perform the analyses without the need for extensive training. Fat analysis using nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy is a reliable, versatile technique which can be used for a broad range of samples. It is a well-established method for dry samples, works without the need for toxic solvents, does not require time-consuming, product-specific calibration, delivers very fast results (in less than a minute) and is very easy to use.