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Technology for the New Millennium

New technologies have been developed at CINVESTAV, Queretaro, including a continuous process and the prototype of a machine for producing tortillas and instant corn flour. This machine is a combination low-shearing extruder and infrared (IR) oven (U.S. Patent Nos. 5,532,013, 5,567,459, and 5,533,532; registered Mexican Patent Nos. 936,344, 936338, and 936,330). It can turn raw corn into tortillas in a matter of minutes, while the traditional commercial process takes 8 to 18 hours. This new machine is also energy efficient, does not waste water, produces no polluting liquid waste, and makes more nutritious tortillas. This prototype can use new kinds of ovens operating with non-conventional energy, such as low frequency radiation, infrared or microwave energy, to dry the masa or cook the tortillas. We hope that an optimized version of this machine will be in commercial use by the year 2015, when the natural gas presently used for tortilla production will either not be available, or will only be available at very high prices. The prototype with an infrared oven will be an important alternative to cooking with natural gas in the future.


The next step in the evolution of this electrical machine will be to replace the extruder with an ohmic cooker. Ohmic cooking is a new system using non-conventional energy in which an electric current is passed through the food until it is cooked to the degree desired. One of the advantages of this cooking method, compared to others that have been mentioned here, is this precise control over how much the food is cooked. Virtually any heating profile can be programmed, monitored, and precisely controlled with the use of a computer.