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The National Food Imaging Centre: Who Benefits?

The primary functions of the NFIC are to:

  • Support and expand our understanding of food structure and functional properties;
  • Underpin innovation for the agri-food sector;
  • Provide specialized expert analysis and consultancy for the Irish food industry.

Publicly Funded Research

The NFIC is a key element of the Teagasc Vision Programme and is currently integrated into two microstructure-based projects:

  • Creaminess Perception (DAF Project RDTMFRC-422): Dynamic confocal microscopy shows how shear forces affect microstructure and release of fat in dairy products. Results will be related to rheological properties and full descriptive sensory analysis.
  • Optimisation and characterization of protein nano-fibrils (DAF Project RDTMFRC-423): The formation, characterization and functional properties of nano-fibrils derived from whey proteins are being studied by atomic force microscopy and electron microscopy.

In addition, microstructure plays an important role in characterizing the functional properties of dairy products, cereals and meat and is a key part within many other projects across both Teagasc research centres.

Benefits to Industry

The new equipment strengthens research and development needs of the Irish food industry by providing access to highly specialized microscopy techniques and expertise in food structure analysis. Any food or beverage product can be examined with minimal sample preparation. Typical applications include:

  • Ingredient distribution in products;
  • Powder characterization - morphology, size, stickiness, surface features;
  • Emulsion stability - phase separation, protein aggregation, droplet sizing;
  • Microstructure of natural foods – fruit and vegetables, meat, fish;
  • Microstructure of processed foods – dairy, meat products, bakery, confectionary, spreads, etc;
  • Packaging materials.