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Food properties and taste appeal

The different consistencies of the many varieties of bread are determined less by ingredients than by internal structure, particularly the size, shape and distribution of air pores in the dough.
The pleasing sensation that comes from crunching a bar of chocolate also depends to a degree on the geometry and size of the air bubbles that form in its interior.

More generally, the taste appeal of food products derives largely from their microstructures; it is therefore important to be able to examine them with suitable and effective instruments.


Elettra's contribution
X-ray microtomography techniques have made it possible to examine non-invasively the degree of porosity of various types of bread, and the thickness of dough separating pores. Relationships have been drawn between data of this kind and mechanical properties such as modulus of elasticity, specific weight and the coefficient of irregularity of pores.
Research into the structure of cheese, particularly its protein content, has also been performed at Elettra. Elasticity, crumbling resistance and consistency depend primarily on the size of fat accumulations and the regularity of the protein matrix. Cheeses with a matrix of small, uniform globules of fat have been shown to be more elastic than those with a more open structure and numerous irregular cavities. The same technique has been used to study the internal microstructures of various cooked products, pasta, chocolate and coffee beans.

Correlating food's taste appeal to its microstructure allows production processes to be improved and better products to be designed, from the viewpoint of both preservation and quality.


Facility: SYRMEP Beamline


Imaging techniques for the study of food microstructure: a review; P.M. Falcone, A. Baiano, A. Conte, L. Mancini, G. Tromba, F. Zanini, M. A. Del Nobile. In Advances in Food and Nutrition Research, Vol 51 pp 206-255.