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1. WO2020006481 - MODULAR ELECTROMAGNETIC HEATING SYSTEM

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CLAIMS

We claim:

1 . A method for pasteurizing or sterilizing a plurality of articles in an electromagnetic radiation heating system, said method comprising:

(a) pasteurizing or sterilizing a first group of articles in a first processing vessel, wherein said pasteurizing or sterilizing includes preheating said first group of articles with a first warming liquid, heating said first group of articles using electromagnetic radiation energy, and cooling said first group of articles with a first cooling liquid;

(b) attaching a second processing vessel to said first processing vessel to form a combined processing unit; and

(c) pasteurizing or sterilizing a second group of articles in said combined processing unit, wherein said pasteurizing or sterilizing includes preheating said second group of articles with a second warming liquid, heating said second group of articles using electromagnetic radiation energy, and cooling said second group of articles with a second cooling liquid different from the first cooling liquid,

wherein, during said pasteurizing or sterilizing of step (c), at least a portion of said heating is performed in said first processing vessel and at least a portion of at least one of said preheating and said cooling is performed in said additional processing vessel.

2. The method of claim 1 , wherein:

said attaching of step (b) includes attaching said second processing vessel to one end of said first processing vessel and attaching a third processing vessel to an opposite end of said first processing vessel and

during said pasteurizing or sterilizing of step (c), at least a portion of said heating is performed in said first processing vessel, at least a portion of said preheating is performed in said second processing vessel, and at least a portion of said cooling is performed in said third processing vessel.

3. The method of claim 1 , wherein said first processing vessel comprises a first end segment, a second end segment, and at least one launcher segment between said first and second end segments, wherein said launcher segment comprises pairs of launchers that discharge said electromagnetic radiation energy into said first processing vessel during said heating.

4. The method of claim 3, wherein said first and second end segments do not include any launchers.

5. The method of claim 1 , further comprising:

prior to said pasteurizing or sterilizing of step (a), loading said first group of articles in a first carrier and pasteurizing or sterilizing said first group of articles in said first carrier in step (a); and

prior to said pasteurizing or sterilizing of step (c), loading said second group of articles into a second carrier and pasteurizing or sterilizing said second group of articles in said second carrier.

6. The method of claim 1 , wherein said first processing vessel is at least partially filled with a liquid during at least a portion of said heating of steps (a) and (c).

7. The method of claim 1 , wherein the pressure surrounding said first group of articles during each of said preheating, said heating, and said cooling of step (a) is within 10 psig of each of the other of said preheating, said heating, and said cooling of step (a).

8. An electromagnetic heating system for pasteurizing or sterilizing a plurality of articles, said system comprising:

a processing vessel for receiving a carrier loaded with a plurality of articles, wherein said processing vessel comprises:

a first end;

a second end spaced apart from the first end defining a chamber therebetween, at least one of said first and said second ends of said processing vessel including an opening configured for at least one of introducing said carrier into and removing said carrier out of said processing vessel,

a warm liquid inlet for introducing a warmed liquid into said chamber; a cool liquid inlet for introducing a cooled liquid into said chamber; a convey line for passing said carrier through at least a portion of said chamber; and

two launchers for discharging electromagnetic energy into said chamber, wherein said processing vessel is configured to be a liquid-filled vessel for each of preheating said articles, heating said articles with electromagnetic energy, and cooling said articles.

9. The system of claim 8, wherein the launchers are two of a plurality of launchers for discharging electromagnetic energy into said chamber, the plurality of launchers including more than two launchers.

10. The system of claim 8, wherein the launchers are located on the same side of said processing vessel

1 1 . The system of claim 8, wherein the launchers are located on opposite sides of said processing vessel.

12. The system of claim 8, wherein said processing vessel further comprises a plurality of nozzles for discharging jets of pressurized liquid into said chamber during at least one of said preheating and said cooling.

13. The system of claim 8, wherein said convey line is configured to transport said articles in opposite first and second horizontal convey directions.

14. The system of claim 8, wherein:

said processing vessel comprises a first end segment, a second end segment opposite said first end segment, and a launcher segment between said first end segment and said second end segment,

a portion of said preheating is carried out in said first end segment,

a portion of said cooling is carried out in said second end segment, and

a portion of said heating is carried out in said launcher segment.

15. The system of claim 8, wherein said processing vessel includes at least two launcher segments.

16. The system of claim 8, wherein said processing vessel is configured to be coupled to an additional vessel and, when coupled to the additional vessel, to disable at least one of preheating and cooling functions of the processing vessel.

17. A method of heating a plurality of articles comprising:

conveying the plurality of articles through each of a first processing vessel and a second processing vessel, wherein:

the first processing vessel includes each of a first preheating zone, a heating zone subsequent to the first preheating zone, and a first cooling zone subsequent to the heating zone, and

the second processing vessel includes one of a second preheating zone and a second cooling zone;

preheating the articles in one of the first preheating zone and the second preheating zone by exposing the articles to a warmed liquid;

while the articles are in the heating zone, directing electromagnetic energy from a plurality of launchers coupled to the first processing vessel into the first processing vessel to heat the articles; and

cooling the articles in one of the first cooling zone and the second cooling zone.

18. The method of claim 17, wherein:

the second processing vessel is coupled to the first processing vessel upstream of the first processing vessel such that the second processing vessel is isolatable from the first processing vessel,

the second processing vessel includes a second preheating zone, and

the step of preheating the articles is performed in the second processing vessel.

19. The method of claim 17, wherein:

the second processing vessel is coupled to the first processing vessel downstream of the first processing vessel such that the second processing vessel is isolatable from the first processing vessel,

the second processing vessel includes a second cooling zone, and

the step of cooling the articles is performed in the second processing vessel.

20. The method of claim 17 further comprising conveying the plurality of articles through a third processing vessel, wherein:

the second processing vessel is coupled to the first processing vessel upstream of the first processing vessel such that the second processing vessel is isolatable from the first processing vessel,

the second processing vessel includes a second preheating zone, and

the step of preheating the articles is performed in the second processing vessel the third processing vessel is coupled to the first processing vessel downstream of the first processing vessel such that the third processing vessel is isolatable from the first processing vessel,

the third processing vessel includes a second cooling zone, and

the step of cooling the articles is performed in the second processing vessel.