Low-pressure microwave plasma sterilization of polyethylene terephthalate bottles
Michael Deilmann, H. Halfmann, Nikita Bibinov, J. Wunderlich, Peter Awakowicz
JOURNAL OF FOOD PROTECTION 71(10), volume 71, 2119–2123, OCT 2008
A low-pressure microwave plasma reactor was developed for sterilization of polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles. In contrast to the established method using aseptic filling machines based on toxic sterilants, here a microwave plasma is ignited inside a bottle by using a gas mixture of nitrogen, oxygen, and hydrogen. To that effect, a reactor setup was developed based on a Plasmaline antenna allowing for plasma ignition inside three-dimensional packages. A treatment time below 5 s is provided for a reduction of 105 and 104 CFU of Bacillus atrophaeus and Aspergillus niger, respectively, verified by means of a count reduction test, The sterilization results obtained by means of this challenge test are in accordance with requirements for aseptic packaging machines as defined by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the German Engineering Federation. The plasma sterilization process developed here for aseptic filling of beverages is a dry process that avoids residues and the use of maximum allowable concentrations of established sterilants, e.g., hydrogen peroxide.