3D food structure could help curb waste

London, March 31 (IANS) Scientists have, for the first time, created a 3-D image of food on the nanometer scale – a development that can help scientists gain detailed knowledge of the structure of complex food systems that could potentially save the food industry large sums of money and reduce food waste that occurs because of faulty production.

“There is still a lot we don’t know about the structure of food, but this is a good step on the way to understanding and finding solutions to a number of problems dealing with food consistency, and which cost the food industry a lot of money,” said one of the study authors Jens Risbo, associate professor at the University of Copenhagen, Denmark.

“If you understand the structure, you can change it and obtain exactly the texture you want,” Jens Risbo explained.

The findings appeared in the journal Food Structure.

The researchers used a cream based on vegetable fat for the research. The cream system is a good test material, since it can represent the structures of a large group of food systems, for example cheese, yogurt, ice cream, spreads, but also the more solid chocolate.

To create a three-dimensional model of the food and convert it into images and video, the scientists used the Swiss Light Source (SLS) synchrotron at the Paul Scherrer Institute in Switzerland.

In the synchrotron electrons are accelerated to near speed of light. The synchrotron is used for research in materials science in areas such as biology and chemistry.

The method the researchers used is called “Ptychographic X-ray computed tomography.”

This is a new method for creating images on the nanometer scale, which also provides a high contrast in biological systems.

The synchrotron in Switzerland is one of the leading places in the world in this area, and it was the first time ever that it was used within food science, the study said.

The vegetable-based cream which the method is used on consists of several ingredients. In addition to water and vegetable fat, it contains milk protein, stabilisers and emulsifiers.

By adjusting the addition of emulsifiers, it is possible to achieve a state in which the cream continues to be fluid until you whip it to foam, whereby all the fat globules are reorganised and sticking together on the outside of the air bubbles in a three-dimensional system, the researchers said.

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