There are many factors that affect the quality of chocolate. The combination of sweet and bitter flavors, the ingredients used in its preparation… and its texture. It is precisely this last variable that some Dutch physicists they think they can dominate. The key is in the so-called metamaterials.
But,what is a metamaterial? These are materials with different properties to those that can be associated with conventional natural materials. These properties are related to its interaction with different waves (generally electromagnetic ones). They achieve this thanks to their microstructures with smaller dimensions than the waves with which they interact.
The team of researchers decided to see if what they had learned about these materials could have culinary applications, and they began by checking if they could create chocolate bars based on these principles. For this they used a mix of chocolate with 72% cocoa that they dissolved to recompose it later with the help of a 3D printer.
The researchers tested a few shapes to give these chocolate bars, some S-shaped, others more convoluted. Through laboratory tests, the researchers were able to verify how each of the shapes behaved when subjected to pressure, that is, when simulated the bite of the consumer.
The process of creating these forms and the laboratory tests to which the chocolates were subjected were published through an article in the magazine Soft Matter. In it they detail how managed to control how the chocolate broke in the tests to which it was subjected and how these ruptures depended on the ways in which the researchers experimented.
The texture of food is important, and it seems that crunchy gives us more pleasure When we eat. One hypothesis suggests that this is likely because we associate crunchy texture with fresh foods. The researchers gave the chocolate they created to a group of participants to taste.
The goal was check if this new control over the texture of the chocolate had an impact on the experience of consumers. Although this second trial was not included in the article, the investigators were pleased with the trial. the physics of food it is certainly curious.
In addition to institutions such as the University of Amsterdam and the Delft University of Technology, one of the innovation centers of the food giant Unilever participated in the study. The development of new techniques to make our food more nutritious and tastier may prove important in the coming decades. For example in the field of space exploration.
Putting food into orbit (and once there, consuming it) is a much more complex task than it seems. One of the options that some handle is to transform food into powder and rebuild it in space with the help of water and a 3D printer. It’s easy in theory, but maybe recovering the texture of some foods is out of the reach of these ingenuities. This is where metamaterials could help, providing that last important touch for our palates.
But the functions that are usually sought for metamaterials are usually very far from the culinary. However, control over how a material breaks can be of tremendous importance in a very different area such as road safety. Creating helmets and bodies that absorb impacts, protecting wearers and occupants is, for example, one of the uses that can be given to these metamaterials.
and the uses They go beyondfrom the creation of super lenses that can help us see what is beyond conventional lenses to materials that can protect our buildings from the seismic waves of earthquakes, through invisibility cloaks that for now belong to the realms of fantasy and science fiction.
“As metamaterials are still in their infancy there is great potential in this field” explained Fabio Valoppi, from the University of Helsinki, who was not involved in the creation of the chocolate bars. “On Earth we have limited materials with limited properties. The beauty of metamaterials (both in their edible and non-edible forms) is that just by adding some shapes and architecture to the same materials with limited properties, we can get new functionality.”
Image | Tetiana Bykovets