Food Science and Technology Department
The Department of Food Science and Technology is housed in two buildings on the Virginia Tech campus. Administrative offices, teaching classrooms and labs, research labs and pilot processing plants are located in the 34,000 square-foot Food Science building, In 2014, the department expanded into the Human and Agricultural Biosciences Building I (HABB1) located across the street from the Food Science building. Shared with the Department of Biological Systems Engineering, the 94,000 square-foot HABB1 facility provides researchers and students from multiple disciplines the ability to collaborate on issues ranging from fermentation and food safety to bioprocessing and biofuels. Both buildings are well-equipped with a variety of analytical instrumentation, equipment, and research-scale pilot plant facilities for use in a wide range of applications.
Food Analysis Laboratories
Facilities for enzyme research, flavor analysis, and protein, lipid, and carbohydrate research are available. The department has a supercritical fluid extraction system for separation technology and computer-interfaced analytical instrumentation. Separation techniques including gas, paper, and liquid chromatography, GC, and HPLC are available. UV spectrophotometers, refractometers, mass spectrometers, infrared spectometers, and spectrofluorometers are available as detection devices. Fraction collectors and high speed refrigerated centrifuges are used for physical separations. Color difference meters and viscometers are utilized to quantitate physical characteristics of samples.
Food microbiology research and teaching facilities include five well-equipped laboratories. The Department is equipped for working with CDC class three pathogens. Virus research is performed in conjunction with the College of Veterinary Medicine. Facilities for anaerobic microbiological identification and research are located in two laboratories, and thermal-processing microbiological facilities are on site. Rapid analytical equipment includes a Bactometer Microbial Monitoring System, , luminator, Epifluorescent microscope, Phase contrast, and light and dark field microscopes. Cultures are grown in programmable, constant temperature incubators.
Packaging and Processing Pilot Plant
Packaging in both rigid and flexible materials and modified atmosphere and vacuum is available. Facilities include a 5,000-square-foot pilot plant with processing equipment for thermal processing, retort sterilization, size reduction, spray drying, freeze-drying, dehydration, and pasteurization. Equipment is available for aseptic processing by UHT and for supercritical fluid extraction. Also available to students are facilities for nondestructive testing of packaging.
Research Winery and Enology Laboratory
The facilities include a research winery equipped with several crushers, a thin-layer and cake press, a dejuicing system, temperature-controlled decanter and fermenting tanks, four cold rooms, and a wine library. A separate grape and wine research laboratory contains a computer-assisted gas chromatographic system, HPLC, UV spectrophotometer, nephelometer, and conductivity meters.
Sensory Evaluation Laboratory
The sensory evaluation laboratory is equipped with ten sensory panel booths, a food preparation kitchen and is supported by a Sensory Information Management System (SIMS). Sensory analysis for consumer, difference, and descriptive testing is available for research and industry support.
Dairy/Beverage Processing Pilot Plant and Analytical Support Laboratory
Facilities for manufacture of fluid milk and beverages, cheese, yogurt, butter, and ice cream are available in the pilot plant. The lab is equipped with pilot plant scale pasteurization systems including a plate heat exchanger and vat unit for standard high temperature short time (HTST) and vat pasteurization of fluid food products. A tubular heat exchanger (Microthermics, Inc. Lab-25) provides flexibility for both HTST and ultra-high temperature (UHT) pasteurization. In addition, out-of-line separation and homogenization equipment allow for design of process to accommodate research needs for milk and beverage processing.
Pilot plant scale cheese processing equipment (50-gallon vats, shredders, tumbler) is frequently used for process training and for research on fresh cheeses. Batch ice cream freezers, and fermentation vessels provide product for research in formulation, sensory and rheological characteristics. Analytical and laboratory equipment for assessment of microbial and chemical quality, flavor, emulsion stability, culture viability, protein, lipid, carbohydrate composition, and drug residue detection are readily available.
Muscle Foods Processing Room and Meat Chemistry Laboratory
The facilities at Virginia Tech include a pilot plant that has an abattoir, meat processing room with a variety of particle-size-reduction equipment, mixers, massagers, stuffers, smokehouses, vacuum packagers with gas flush capabilities, coolers, freezers, and a cookery. To support the research and teaching efforts in muscle foods, the department has a chemistry laboratory that includes instrumentation for gel electrophoresis apparatus, a laser for sarcomere determinations, rapid AOAC Foss-Let Fat analyzer, Soxhlet extraction apparatus, and micro- and macro kjeldahl. Other instrumentation includes: an Instron Universal testing machine for instrumental methods of product assessment, a Minolta chroma meter, and Shimadzu reflectance spectrophotometry for pigment analysis.