Electrical Pulses Could Make Better Wine

Engineers test new technique to get more juice from grapes.
Marsha Lewis, Contributing Producer

The wine industry has come a long way, from exclusively small-scale operations to a multi-million dollar industry that’s booming. As the demand for quality wine grows, so does the thirst for a better way to make it.

To help satiate the palates of thirsty oenophiles, researchers at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles are developing a way to extract juice from grapes more efficiently and effectively.

The technique, developed by Martin A. Gundersen, an electrical engineer at USC, and his team, is called "pulsed power."

Pulsed power uses short but intense electrical pulses to break down the cells of the fruit to free more juice. In lab tests, the technique was able to extract up to 30 percent more juice than traditional methods of extraction.

"You can get more juice with less press, and what that does is it actually changes what you're getting out of the grape; you get less residue," explained Gundersen.

Early tests show the pulses also speed up the aging process of red wine, making it taste more mature, sooner. 

"It appears to produce a better quality juice," said Gundersen.

What’s the word from wine lovers? In a taste test, most people found the treated grapes produced a better glass of wine.

This technology is also being used to extract better quality oil from olives and liquid from sugar beets. 

Get Inside The Science:

The Days of Wine and Pulses

Martin Gundersen, University of Southern California

Author Bio & Story Archive

Marsha Lewis is a freelance producer based in California.  She has won 11 National Telly Awards and nine Regional Emmy Awards for her work in local and national syndicated news.

I’ve dedicated my time to reporting and producing stories focused on medical, science and technology. I created a nationally award winning series dedicated to promoting women and their great accomplishments.  Now I’ve taken that expertise outside the traditional TV news format and broadened the viewership to people around the world.