Development of more sustainable and healthier food products
Prof Maria Charalambides
Imperial College London
The increasing demand for foods wih reduced sugar and the use of more sustainable ingredients has led the food industry to change formulations whilst also aiming to maintain the desirable sensorial and textural characetristics of the foods to satisfy the consumer. Significant research on this topic has already taken place in the Department of Mechanical Engineering in conjunction with industry which highlighted the effect of the formulation and microstructure on the food’s breakdown during the oral process and its link to sensorial attributes for texture as well as flavour.
For chocolate specifically, experimental as well as modelling studies showed that the microstructure impacts on the fragmentation during the first bite, which increases the available surface area that can come into contact with the oral sensory receptors. Furthermore, specific patterns of fragmentation impact the subsequent chain of events including the melting process, the rheological response of the food bolus (mass of food formed in the mouth after chewing and mixing with saliva) as well as the tribological response between the food and the oral surfaces.
In this PhD project we will concentrate on the food bolus formation stage of the oral process. Specifically, we will investigate how reduced sugar and the incorporation of more sustainable ingredients impact the rheology, flow and melting of the food bolus. As a result of this research, new and more sustainable food products with enhanced and controlled sensorial attributes will be designed, with a positive impact on human diet and health.
Chocolate is a very complex biomaterial consisting of a continuous cocoa and protein fat matrix with a dispersed particulate phase consisting of sugars, milk and cocoa solids. Advanced characterisation studies including imaging (SEM, Confocal) and rheology, as well as bespoke test rigs for thermal and tribological properties will be employed.
Nano indentation techniques will be used to characterise the individual materials in the chocolate composite system and their intrephases. Several techniques that we will develop will be applicable to other biomaterials.
For information on how to apply for this project please visit cdt-acm.org/phd-opportunities
The CDT gave me the opportunity to meet people working in different fields and gain experience in a wide range of characterisation techniques that I could apply to my research.