Research

Using Bubbles to Keep Clean

Keeping produce clean of foodborne pathogens is a serious issue, and delicate fruits and vegetables like tomatoes cannot withstand intense procedures like cavitation-based cleaning. But a new study suggests that simple air bubbles may have the power to keep our produce free of germs.

In particular, researchers studied air bubbles injected into water as they bounced and slid along an inclined solid surface. They found that as a bubble approaches a tilted surface, it squeezes a thin film of liquid between itself and the surface. That flow creates a shear stress that pushes contaminants like E. coli away from the point of impact. When the bubble bounces away, fluid gets sucked back into the void left behind, creating more shear stress. In their experiments and simulations, the team measured shear stresses greater than 300 Pa, more than double what’s needed to remove foodborne bacteria like Listeria. (Image credit: Pixabay; research credit: E. Esmaili et al.)

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