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A day in the life - Food Structure: What’s beneath the surface?


For Science Week, Deirdre Kennedy from the National Food Imaging Centre, Teagasc Moorepark, introduces Food Structure: What’s beneath the surface? At the National Food Imaging Centre, we study food structure using state-of-the-art microscopes, high speed cameras even virtual reality.

All foods have a structure and this structure is determined by a combination of the various ingredients and the processes that take place when the food is produced. For example, even though cream and butter have the same ingredients, they are processed differently. This changes the food structure, resulting in a different taste and texture. We can study the various ingredients, how they interact with each other and how this changes the texture and functionality of foods.

Our specialised equipment allows us to study food processes in action, such as heating, cooling and mechanical stress, and how they can change the structure of the food. Our high speed camera allows us to track and follow individual processes such as how a powder dissolves in water, by filming up to 100,000 frames per second. Studying food structure also helps us to ensure the food we eat is safe. Using confocal RAMAN spectroscopy, we can scan a food and identify all components by their chemical fingerprints, allowing us to trace contaminants and track where all components are located in a food.

Virtual reality is an exciting part of our work. Using an Oculus VR headset and hand controllers we can immerse ourselves inside a food product, such as a loaf of bread or even a tiny powder particle. This allows us to carry out four-dimensional analysis, an exciting novel way of gathering structural information about food products.

Join Teagasc for a series of exciting virtual events for Science Week (November 8-15) as part of ‘The Festival of Farming and Food – SFI Science Week at Teagasc’. The core theme for Science Week 2020 is ‘Science Week - Choosing our Future’ focusing on how science can improve our lives in the future, and in the present. This will explore how science can help us to make positive choices that will impact the environment, our health, and our quality of life. Changes based in scientific evidence that we make today can hugely improve our future life, but also right now. Join our events on Zoom and get a chance to put your questions to our scientists in our live Q&As. Click here to register.

We’d love to hear from you. Be part of The Festival of Farming and Food journey on Social Media:

@Teagasc @ScienceWeek #FestFarmFood #BelieveInScience #ScienceWeek