Ruben Mercade Prieto

Associate Professor

Accepting PhD Students

PhD projects

Topic 1. Fouling and Cleaning in Food Processing Most processed food require some thermal processing, particularly to guarantee their long term safety (e.g. pasteurization). However, during heat treatment it is common to obtain extensive fouling inside the heat exchangers, which is one of the major cost in many food industries, such as in the dairy sector. The fundamentals of fouling and cleaning are very difficult to unravel, due to the complexity of the processes as well as due to the fluids involved. Hence, extensive research has been conducted in the past using pure model systems, for example whey proteins with QCM to study fouling rates 1. Similarly, cleaning has been studied with different model proteins 2,3. The aim of this project is to develop general mechanisms of fouling and/or cleaning, based on first principles, instead of the empirical guidelines currently in use. Topic 2. Microindentation of Soft Materials The performance and characteristics of many soft materials depends on their mechanical properties, quite often in the µm scale range. In such conditions, typical AFM or texture analyzers are not convenient to use, and purposely built micromanipulators are used instead. Such systems are used for example to characterize cells, microcapsules or beads 4, as well as larger hydrogels 5. As these apparatus are custom made, they can easily operate with e.g. chemically aggressive solutions, providing novel data on how soft materials behave under reactive conditions 6. Such mechanical data is one of few ways to characterize the chemical degradations of hydrogels, for example. This project will involve expanding the current applications of microindentation for different soft materials. It will be in collaboration with Prof. Xiao Dong Chen at Soochow University (China). Topic 3. Heat and mass transfer characterization using microscopy Novel experimental tools are needed to study such sub-millimetre transport problems with micron-size resolution, capable to provide varied physical and chemical information. Here we propose to develop microscopy techniques for chemical and food engineering applications, used extensively in e.g. neuroscience or microfuidics, using milk as a model system to test. Novel experimental methodologies will be developed in turbid solutions of high solid contents in order to perform 3D: thermometry 7; chemical quantification, e.g. using fluorescence 8 or Raman spectroscopy 9; viscosity; local diffusivity and flow measurements. These developments will be extremely useful for e.g. drying purposes, allowing the modelling of the heat and mass transfer all the different components in the turbid fluid, but in many other engineering problems where understanding micro-scale dynamic processes is required. It will be in collaboration with Prof. Xiao Dong Chen at Soochow University (China). (1) Yang, W.; Li, D.; Chen, X. D.; Mercadé-Prieto, R. Effect of Calcium on the Fouling of Whey Protein Isolate on Stainless Steel Using QCM-D. Chem. Eng. Sci. 2018, 177, 501–508 DOI: 10.1016/j.ces.2017.12.004. (2) Li, H.; Koutzenko, B.; Chen, X. D.; Jeantet, R.; Mercadé-Prieto, R. Cleaning beyond Whey Protein Gels: Egg White. Food Bioprod. Process. 2015, 93, 249–255. (3) Mercadé-Prieto, R.; Coignaud, M.; Jin, Y.; Jeantet, R.; Chen, X. D. Dissolution of Bovine Serum Albumin Hydrogels in Alkali. Food Hydrocoll. 2017 DOI: 10.1016/j.foodhyd.2017.11.001. (4) Mercadé-Prieto, R.; Zhang, Z. Mechanical Characterization of Microspheres – Capsules, Cells and Beads: A Review. J. Microencapsul. 2012, 29 (3), 277–285 DOI: 10.3109/02652048.2011.646331. (5) Hu, W.; Corbera-Sabaté, C.; Chen, X. D.; Mercadé-Prieto, R. Poroviscoelasticity of Whey Protein Hydrogels at Different Length and Time Scales. Food Hydrocoll. 2017, 72, 237–246 DOI: 10.1016/j.foodhyd.2017.06.002. (6) Hu, W.; Martin, F.; Jeantet, R.; Chen, X. D.; Mercadé-Prieto, R. Micromechanical Characterization of Hydrogels Undergoing Swelling and Dissolution at Alkaline PH. Gels 2017, 3, 44 DOI: doi:10.3390/gels3040044. (7) Mercade-Prieto, R.; Rodriguez-Rivera, L.; Chen, X. D. Fluorescence Lifetime of Rhodamine B in Aqueous Solutions of Polysaccharides and Proteins as a Function of Viscosity and Temperature. Photochem. Photobiol. Sci. 2017, 16 (11), 1727–1734 DOI: 10.1039/C7PP00330G. (8) Liu, W.; Dong Chen, X.; Mercadé-Prieto, R. Spatial Quantification of Hydrogels Swelling Using Wide-Field Fluorescence Microscopy. Chem. Eng. Sci. 2017, 158, 349–358 DOI: 10.1016/j.ces.2016.10.014. (9) Xu, B.; Chen, X. D.; Mercadé-Prieto, R. Chemical Imaging of Protein Hydrogels Undergoing Alkaline Dissolution by CARS Microscopy. Food Chem. 2018 DOI: 10.1016/j.foodchem.2018.01.056.

  • Source: Scopus
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Ruben Mercade-Prieto is currently teaching Engineering Fluid Mechanics


Ruben Mercade-Prieto is currently teaching Engineering Fluid Mechanics

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