Aerospace company Boeing has donated patents to Washington State University for microwave technology that could be used to produce more flavourful dried fruits and vegetables that are free of additives.

Called the Microwave Vacuum Dehydration Technology, or MIVAC(R), the technology was originally designed to dry out spacecraft after ocean landings and cure composite materials for fighter aircraft. When used with food, the process integrates microwave energy and vacuum to dry food quickly at very low temperatures. The result is said to be lightweight dried products that retain their original colour, flavour, shape and nutritional value. Strawberries remain naturally red, for example, and grapes stay tangy and tasty without the use of chemical additives.

The value of the donated intellectual property, including three Boeing patents and numerous documents that provide related know-how for the use of the microwave drying process, has not been disclosed.

“Research into MIVAC technology began in the 1970s at McDonnell Douglas, now part of the Boeing Company, with a view to expanding the utility of vacuum drying techniques developed for space programs and for the curing of composites for our fighter aircraft,” said Fred Wear, a Boeing engineer. “Over the years, we have spent some $2.5m to gather the know-how that has gone into the processing technology and equipment.”

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