Elea Technology GmbH is the worlds leading supplier of Pulsed Electric Field (PEF) solutions to the food, beverage and scientific industry. With more than 250 systems installed Elea has turned into the leading technology supplier with a network of regional agents and technology partners and an expert team offering a full 24-hour support service around the world.
“As PEF is applicable to all products where quality counts it will become the preferred industry technology.”
Prof. Dr. Stefan Toepfl
5 REASONS WHY WE ARE THE WORLD’S LEADING PEF SUPPLIER
THE HISTORY OF PEF AND THE BEGINNING OF ELEA
First reports on Pulsed Electric Fields have been published by Heinz Doevenspeck in the 1960s. He reported a cell disruption effect and suggested its use to improve mass transfer processes such as separation and drying as well as to induce microbial inactivation without a substantial amount of heating.
First system development
The work of Doevenspeck has been followed up by Thyssen Krupp in the 1980s, where a group including Heinz Doevenspeck and Werner Sitzmann installed first industrial scale systems in fish meal industry. Goals were set high, but unfortunately power switching technology was not developed far enough.
Early stage research projects
In the 1990s the technology was investigated in a number of research projects in the EU and the US. At Berlin University of Technology (TUB) the possibility to induce plant cell permeabilization and to inactivate microorganisms was investigated by a group led by Dietrich Knorr.
In the US researchers at the Ohio State University (work group around Howard Zhang) and Washington State University (Gustavo Barbosa´s work group) focused on microbial decontamination of liquid products. A number of lab and pilot scale systems for treatment of liquid, semi-solid and solid treatment in batch and continuous modes have been developed at that time.
The images show PEF Pilot halls at TUB and at Thyssen Krupp.
PEF meets potato
The first papers on potato treatment have been published by Angersbach et al (1997). He suggested the use of PEF to accelerate drying of potato cubes as well as to improve starch extraction.
In 1997 the research group of Dietrich Knorr at TUB and a large-scale German starch processor started a BMBF Project, where pilot-scale equipment for potato processing was developed. Very similar results have been reported by Rastogi et al (1999) for carrot tissue as well as treatment of sugar beet (Esthiaghi and Knor 1999).
In 1998 technical scale systems have been developed for continuous PEF treatment of whole potatoes in the potato starch industry at TUB. Early designs used gravity as a transport means, but very fast it has become obvious that forced product transport is required and water wheel and conveyor belt systems have been tested in 1999. Making use of horizontal or vertical electrode configuration treatment belts have shown high process performance, reliability as well as cleanability.
Industrial scale prototype
Based on the promising results at TUB, a team of engineers and scientists around Dr.- Ing. Volker Heinz and Prof. Dr. Stefan Toepfl have started the development of turn-key, industrial PEF systems at the German Institute of Food Technologies (DIL e.V.) and in 2006 an industrial scale prototype has been installed for French Fries processing.
The process has subsequently gained interest from a number of potato processors. In a joint project with Wernsing Feinkost GmbH an industrial scale unit has been developed since 2010 and been installed in 2012.
The beginning of Elea
The efforts paid off: in 2012 three further units have been installed in Wernsing production sites in Germany and Denmark. In the same year, Elea was founded as a spin-off entity and received a licence agreement for the production and distribution of PEF systems developed at DIL.
Under the leadership of Nick Speakman, Elea recruited its own experts for engineering, R&D and Sales and started the promotion of PEF systems to the potato industry.
In 2016, the Elea Team moved into a new building, just opposite the DIL facilities. The building is equipped with a bespoke office and a spacious pilot hall. With state-of-the-art equipment including an Elea PEF Pilot trial system, industrial processes like frying, cutting, drying or a comparison of thermal and PEF processes can easily be mimicked. In the following years, Elea was growing in business and as a company.
In 2017, the North American distributor Food Physics was established, and Professor Dr.-Ing Stefan Toepfl became Elea’s new Managing Director. Stefan brings over 15 years of experience in PEF Technology, (Novel) Process Technologies, Food Engineering and academic education as a Professor in Germany and California.
New innovations have been launched, i.e the Elea PEF Advantage B 1 system, a compact, all-in-one unit including a pulse generator, treatment belt and vessel, as well as the PEF Pilot Dual system, the world’s only fully modular and configurable PEF solution for producing and testing both, liquid and solid foods.
The young company has always been actively involved in PEF research to create further applications for the technology. Over time, PEF applications have successfully been established in other industries, such as chips, vegetables, dried fruits, juice, olive oil and wine.
Leading PEF supplier
In 2022, Elea is celebrating ist 10th anniversary. A lot has happened in the past few years. Back in 2012, the company started as a start-up with three employees, today it employs 30 professionals in different departments. Elea Technology has sold and installed around 250 systems worldwide and has become the leading technology supplier with a network of regional representatives and technology partners. The largest systems can process up to 100 tonnes of solids or 5000 litres of liquid per hour.
Development of new PEF applications and equipment is ongoing. So stay tuned.