The new microscopy lab, opened as part of Mondelēz’s £17M investment into its UK research and development, is the largest lab of its type outside the US. The new microscopy equipment was usually only found at academic institutes, not in the commercial sector, it said.
The new equipment uses 3D technology, similar to that used in medical imaging and enables scientists to characterise a material’s entire structure or microstructure not just a portion.
“While 2-D imaging can give an indication of the structure of a product, similar to a hospital CAT scan, the 3-D detail afforded by X-ray tomography [an imaging procedure used to generate a 3-D image of the middle of an object] made possible through microscopy, means we can view the entirety of a sample rather than just a few sections,” said Alan Gundle, md of the Mondelēz International global science and technology research centre at Reading.
By using 3D technology, scientists will no longer need to cut the sample open, which induces damage and renders the selection unfit for later examinations.
“This technique can provide lots of useful information — because it is non-destructive there are benefits such as for shelf-life studies — the same sample can be examined at every time point in the study, across all dimensions inside and outside,” said Tom Ray, microscopy manager, Reading Science Centre. “There is no need to cut the sample open, which induces damage from the cutting operation and renders the sample unfit for later examination in the shelf-life study.”
The technology will show researchers a clearer image of a product’s content, showing a 3D picture of a product’s full microstructure, and enabling researchers to control the amount of air gaps.
Air gaps are vital in many foods, as they make it possible to bite into a product, too many gaps will make a product too soft and not enough will result in a product being too hard.
“The presence of bubbles makes it easier or even possible to bite into foods, but there is often a right balance to be struck between too many or too few air gaps,” said Gundle.
Gundle added that this new technology has played a significant role in the development of Mondelēz’s Crispello and Bubbly chocolate ranges, and will enable scientists to get the perfect balance of bubbles.
“Because almost everything the company makes will relate to structure at some point in its conception and production, microscopy is an integral part in anything new and novel. This means we can continue to innovate with more exciting new products,” said Gundle.
The new microscopy laboratory will create six new jobs.