Food science in 3D

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Chemistry

Giant three-dimensional moving molecules roving before the eyes
could help scientists understand molecular behaviour in a matter of
minutes - instead of the more typical weeks using traditional
techniques.

Giant three-dimensional moving molecules roving before the eyes could help scientists understand molecular behaviour in a matter of minutes - instead of the more typical weeks using traditional techniques.

The US National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)​ reports this week that NIST scientists and collaborators used chemical data, NIST software, special eyewear, and floor-to-ceiling display screens to conjure up the gargantuan molecules.

The researchers went on to use the 3D facility to study 'smart gels', inexpensive materials that expand or contract in response to external stimuli. For example, a 'smart' artificial pancreas might release insulin inside the body in response to high sugar levels. Other applications include exotic foods, cosmetics or sensors. But scientists need to better understand the molecular behaviour of the gels before they can optimise them for specific products.

The NIST team is currently studying the shake gels - mixtures of clays and polymers that firm up into gels when shaken, and then gradually relax again to liquids.

According to the NIST report, the visualisation facility helped the scientists see that it is the polymer's oxygen atoms, not the hydrogen atoms as previously thought, that attach to the clay.

So will the future of food science be three-dimensional? As Kraft Foods sponsored the research, scientists involved in food formulation could soon be using this cutting-edge science to envisage the future of food.

Further details of the study, carried out by scientists at NIST, Los Alamos National Laboratory and Harvard university, can be found in the August 28 issue of Journal of Physical Chemistry B​.

Related topics: R&D

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