Our goal is to work in a collaborative and enjoyable environment to explore, examine and develop technologies that can be utilized commercially. The process of conducting PhD and Masters research is to bring the best out of individual's capability to excel professionally and to contribute to human society in a positive way. The Biotechnology and Food Engineering Group (www.innova-bfe.com), led by Professor Xiao Dong Chen in Chemical Engineering Department, is aimed at the development of innovative processing technologies, product evaluation tools, and value-enhanced food and bio-products. The focus is fundamental, scientific study of the process-product interactions. Rigorous engineering and materials science approaches are taken wherever appropriate together with detailed mathematical modeling of the processes. The group is unique in that it has a strong focus in applications and the generation of Intellectual Properties.
Biotechnology is now a very broad field of research and development. Stedman's Medical Dictionary defines biotechnology as "The field devoted to applying the techniques of biochemistry, cellular biology, biophysics, and molecular biology to addressing practical issues related to human beings, agriculture, and the environment." Whereas The On-line Medical Dictionary defines biotechnolgy as "The fusion of biology and technology". Biotechnology Online by Biotechnology Australia says "Using living things to create products or to do tasks for human beings is a general description of biotechnology". Wikepedia's biotechnology web page has some information on the history and definitions of Biotechnology while Biotechnology Australia's site also contain information specific to Australia.
The BFE group at Monash is aimed at innovative applications of the knowledge created in the broad areas of mechanical and chemical engineering sciences, into the field of biotech product manufacturing. These product related research and innovation are to do with pre-hospital treatment, separation technologies, bio-film scaling and removal, food safety (predictive microbiology and experimentation), and pharmaceutical particle formation and delivery, and in vitro digestive systems for pre-screening purposes etc. The importance of the in vitro digestive system may be related to what has been elaborated by Dr. David Topping.
The BFE is also aimed at the development of the point of view that the next knowledge wave would be Bio-mimicking to Produce New Products that are beneficial to the healthy co-existence of human kind and the other kinds.
Food is certainly very important to us for our survival, keeping us healthy and providing energy for our routine life. There are always new and seemly healthier products coming into the market and more local industries are becoming international each year. Today's life has become more “busy” and more and more people are relying on ready to serve and processed food. Awareness of consumers towards the food quality and increasing demand of ‘nutritional’ food products have pressurized food industries to produce the top-quality product, which is still economical. This is a real market-driven challenge to both industrial as well as academic food researchers.
In last two decades, food engineering has been a very important research field due to vast and changing demand from consumers. In spite of a huge research and development, there are still considerable difficulties involved in converting many fundamental ideas into practice. Engineering principles have been widely explored and improvised towards the better understanding of relationships between the process engineering and materials properties. A food manufacturing sector has brought engineering principles closer to our heart which seemed “far-off” in the past. In fact, food engineering principles are closely related to chemical and material engineering principles and other science fields such as microbiology, physics and chemistry. Incorporation of computational tools into food research for mathematical analysis of food products and processes have significantly benefited to understand food engineering. Study of food engineering principles from different perspectives and their application to analyzing, predicting and designing a food process is an important step for the advancement of food engineering. Opportunities still exist in a food research field for developing better engineering practice to produce top-quality and nutritional food products (see Food engineering for the future: a chemical engineer’s perspective by X D Chen).
Our group led by Professor Xiao Dong Chen, was established in the Department of Chemical Engineering at Monash University (Clayton Campus) in mid-April 2006. Prior to that, our group was located in the Chemical and Materials Engineering Department at the The University of Auckland. As a result of Prof. Chen's relocation, several students who used to be enrolled in The University of Auckland have been transferred to Monash University.