Department of Bioresource Engineering
Macdonald Campus, McGill University
Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue, Québec H9X 3V9
vijaya [dot] raghavan [at] mcgill [dot] ca (Dr. Raghavan)
Dr. Vijaya Raghavan obtained his B. Eng. (Mech. Eng.) from Bangalore University, India in 1967, his M.Sc. (Agr. Eng.) from the University of Guelph in 1970, and his Ph.D. (Agr. Eng.) in 1973 from Colorado State University. Dr. Raghavan’s career at McGill started in 1974 as a Research Associate and Lecturer at the Department of Agricultural Engineering at Macdonald Campus. He became an Assistant Professor in 1977, an Associate Professor in 1983, and a Full Professor in 1987. He was Chair of the Department from 1993 to 2003, and has been the recipient of a James McGill Professor award since 2002. He was director of three CIDA-funded projects administered by the AUCC through their UPCD program. Two projects dealt with the transfer of expertise and post-harvest technologies to southern India for the consolidation of food security in this region. The third project was the transfer of expertise and electro-technologies to China for the purposes of research in food processing and for other applications such as the extraction of valued chemicals from plant materials, and the synthesis of chemicals. Teaching is an important part of Dr. Raghavan’s activities, both at the undergraduate and graduate levels. In his courses, he seeks to engage and motivate his students with enthusiasm, with hands-on experience in labs, and with concrete examples in field trips to actual installations showing engineering principles in action. To date, he has mentored over 180 undergraduate students through their capstone project course, and has supervised 64 M.Sc. students and 37 Ph.D. candidates to completion of their degrees.
The main thrust of Dr Raghavan’s research efforts over the last two decades has been to study and develop post-harvest or post-production processes and technologies for the storage and drying of produce and crops. Initial studies were on the use of particulate medium for heat treatment and drying of grains in spouted, fluidized and packed beds. His focus has shifted to the dielectric heating of produce and foods with electro-technologies based on the use of microwaves (MW), radio-frequency (RF), and pulsed-electric fields (PEF). Conventional drying systems operate on the classic thermodynamic concepts of heat and mass transfer. With MW and RF, heat is generated volumetrically within the produce as a result of the material’s dielectric properties. Also, the structure, size, and shape of the produce are important factors affecting the use of electro-technology. The systems are thus more complex, and one of Dr Raghavan’s on-going endeavors is to find the bridge between the heating and drying described by classic thermodynamics equations with those describing the dielectric behavior of the material when exposed to MW and RF. Dr Raghavan’s research activities have also touched on other areas such as soil compaction and tillage practices, controlled and modified atmosphere storage of produce, hyper-baric treatment of produce prior to storage, distribution of heat in heat-treatment of produce, microwave-assisted extraction of bioactive compounds from plant materials, disinfestation of grains in storage using ultra-high frequency microwaves, electro-osmotic dewatering, characterization of a double-pipe helical heat exchanger, microwave-assisted retting of flax and hemp for production of biofibers, microwave pasteurization of in-shell eggs, production and usage of biochar, generation of electric energy by microbial fuel cells using syngas and by microbial fuel cells with photosynthetic microorganisms, and carbon capture from gas emissions by photosynthetic microorganisms.
Topics of Current Research Projects
(i) High pressure pre-treatment for extending shelf life of produce; (ii) Microbial fuel cells using CO as a carbon source; (iii) Extraction and purification of lignans from flaxseeds and spilanthol from Spilanthes; (iv) Biochar production from different lignocellulosic materials; (v) Microwave assisted retting of flax and hemp straws; (vi) High electric field processing of food products.
To date, the results of the work by his research group have generated 445 papers in peer-reviewed journals, 38 book chapters, 710 conference papers, and four patents, and have been applied with much success in the field in two CIDA-funded projects to address the issues of food security and safety in India. An estimated 30% of crops and produce in developing countries are lost after being harvested as a result of damage and spoilage. Losses occur at every step of the chain of events from the field to the market as a result of mishandling during sorting and transport, of poor storage conditions that leads to spoilage and infestation by insects and pests, and of inadequate packaging for market. Post-harvest losses are not only that of quantity but also of nutritional quality of the produce. Preventing or reclaiming these losses by implementing adequate storage methods and by processing the food would provide a means of addressing food insecurity problems, and also provide the resources to deal with problems of poverty, malnutrition and hunger.
Dr. Raghavan is participating in research projects with colleagues at McGill, and with collaborators at other Institutes in Canada, Thailand, Malaysia, Benin, and India. He is currently director of a Scaling-Up project in the UPCD program administered by AUCC and which is funded by CIDA. The project is on “Post-Harvest Enterprise for Rural Development” and the collaborator on this project is Tamil Nadu Agricultural University located at Coimbatore in Tamil Nadu State in south India. He is a co-investigator on a project on “Improving rice processing strategies for food security in West Africa” which is funded by the African Rice Center (WARDA) and takes place in Benin and Nigeria. He continues to maintain links with previous collaborators in China, India, Singapore, Jordan, Algeria, and Brazil, and is seeking funding for new projects in India, Libya, and Canada.
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