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A Nondestructive Leak Detection Method for Flexible Food Packages Using Hydrogen as a Tracer Gas

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A nondestructive leak detection method developed at Technical Research Centre of Finland (VTT) was tested for both gas-flushed and vacuum flexible packages. In the method, a gas package containing 0.5 to 5.0% (vol/vol) hydrogen in nitrogen was positioned in a test chamber, a controlled vacuum was pulled in the chamber through a pipe connected to a hydrogen sensor, and leaking packages were detected by the sensor as increased H2 concentration. The H2 tracer gas (0.5 to 5.0%) was introduced into leaking finished vacuum packages at 200 kPa pressure. Within I to 4 s the developed test method was able to detect leaks down to 10 to 15 μm and 20 to 30 μm in diameter in commercially manufactured gas-flushed packages filled with roasted meat balls and vacuum packages filled with ground coffee, respectively. Before leak testing, the vacuum packages were charged with H2 for 30 s. The sensitivity and leak detection time of the test method were improved when the H2 concentration in the package was increased and when the free space in the test chamber was decreased. The evaluated H2 concentrations did not affect the sensory or microbiological quality of the roasted meat balls. This study clearly demonstrated that the hydrogen tracer gas leak detection method has potential to be further developed as a fast, nondestructive, on-line leak testing apparatus for flexible packages with or without a headspace.

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: VIT Biotechnology and Food Research, P.O. Box 1500, FIN-02044 VIT, Finland

Publication date: September 1, 1998

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