The recently inaugurated research facility is the first of its kind in the world. Scientists from both natural sciences and engineering will use the high-tech laboratories of the “International Beverage Research Center Weihenstephan” (iGZW) for cutting-edge research in beverage technology. A global first, this unique research facility on the Freising-Weihenstephan campus will cover the entire drink design process chain – from basic molecular biology research through biotechnology processes to the final product.
As this is an area of key scientific interest, the German federal government has contributed half of the total investment cost of EUR 22 million. Endorsed by the German Council of Science and Humanities, the TUM’s beverage research program can now be realized at the expansive center stretching over 4,200 square meters. TUM itself contributed approximately EUR 1 million towards the cost of equipment. The new research building is based on President Herrmann’s concept dated March 14, 2008.
“The opening of this landmark research facility marks a new chapter in TUM’s international brand profile in brewing and beverage technology,” comments TUM President Wolfgang A. Herrmann. “The interdisciplinary concept brings together a number of Chairs and core competencies, building on the rich food and nutritional science heritage of TUM’s Weihenstephan campus. We hope that the new center will bring the natural sciences and engineering research cultures closer together to achieve the common aim of developing innovative beverages.”
TUM’s President believes that demand for functional food and beverages fortified with health-promoting additives presents a corporate social responsibility challenge for the research community. Strongly advocating the initiative, the State of Bavaria has placed the research spotlight on the life sciences center of Weihenstephan.
The new research center is a tangible outcome of the reform policy initiated by TUM 15 years ago to transform its Weihenstephan life sciences campus. Developments since then have included the modern central library, the new Nutrition and Food Research Center building and the relocation of the Food Chemistry Chair, expanded by two further Chairs, from Garching to Weihenstephan. To date, around EUR 150 million has been invested in infrastructure as part of the reform program, including the soon-to-be-opened Hans Eisenmann Center for Agricultural Science, Weihenstephan.
Bundling expertise for innovative beverages
With 4,200 square meters of floor space, the new building has plenty of space for innovative research and development. It will be home to the Chairs of Process Systems Engineering and Technical Microbiology as well as a number of working groups from the Chair of Brewing and Beverage Technology. It will also accommodate the Bavarian Biomolecular Mass Spectrometry Center (BayBioMS), which will focus on protein and metabolite analytics.
Projects to develop innovative beverages are already underway. “We will continue our work on a ‘kefirade’ drink at the iGZW,” reveals Rudi Vogel of the Chair of Technical Microbiology. “This is a soft drink based on water kefir, which is a combination of different microorganisms.” Research will also be carried out on the shelf life and safety of beverages. Scientists will work on verification procedures for microbial contamination and try to gain a better understanding of the molecular mechanisms that lead to spoilage and non-conforming products.
Further development of process technologies
The Chair of Brewing and Beverage Technology will use the new iGZW facilities to develop innovative malt-based drinks. “Our approach uses different fermentation processes,” explains Head of Chair Prof. Thomas Becker. “We focus in particular on finding out how these processes influence flavorings and flavor stability.”
Another research direction involves investigating the use of energy-intensive spent grains – a residual product from brewing – as an ingredient in food and beverages. The Chair’s researchers are also aiming to optimize beer fermenting and maturing processes and will work on new processes for yeast management.
The Chair of Process Systems Engineering, headed by Prof. Heiko Briesen, develops models to represent the fundamental processes in drinks manufacture. “We use simulations to study the degradation of starch during the mashing process for example,” explains Briesen. Another project involves analyzing the filtration processes in beer brewing.
Substance analysis to optimize design and taste
The characteristics of a beverage are determined by its ingredients and manufacturing process. The Chair of Food Chemistry and Molecular Sensory Science headed up by Prof. Thomas Hofmann will be using the iGZW facilities to investigate which molecules are responsible for the biological action and taste of beverages like coffee, beer, wine and orange juice.
Prof. Hofmann is co-director of the BayBioMS along with Prof. Bernhard Küster from the Chair of Proteomics and Bioanalytics. “Mass spectrometry analysis allows us to determine the molecular composition of beverages and monitor production processes,” explains Küster. “Once we know what these substances are, we can directly influence the design of beverages.”