3d printers

Scientists claim to have created crispier chocolate using 3D printers

How food looks can have as much of an impact on how it tastes as the ingredients in it, but all five human senses actually play a role in how we perceive and enjoy what we eat. Chocolate is a prime example, as its popping and crackling sound is difficult to perfect when baking, but is a big part of its appeal. This led researchers from the University of Amsterdam to experience chocolate 3D printing with unique structures that emphasize the characteristics we already associate with high-quality chocolates, in hopes of discovering ways to alter the way materials fracture and improve the way people physically interact with the material of all kinds.

As our ability to make and manipulate materials at the microscopic level has improved, it has opened up a world of research around what are called metamaterials. Humans have long learned to mix different materials to produce new ones with very specific properties; it is the basis of the science of metallurgy, for example. But metamaterials strive to do the same by altering the structure of a given material to produce improved properties or characteristics. One of the most interesting areas of study with metamaterials is in camera lenses that appear completely flat to the human eye, but are actually covered in microscopic structures that bend light just as effectively as curved lenses. , further improving smartphone photography while potentially getting rid of the camera. bumps quite a day.

Camera lenses and candy bars don’t seem to have much in common, but metamaterials could be just as useful for chocolate lovers as they are for photographers. There are a few factors that separate high-quality chocolate from the cheap stuff used to make the giant bunnies you probably enjoyed last weekend. Good things have a shiny finish and tend to crack when bitten, with a distinct snapping sound, rather than just crumbling in the mouth. This unique texture comes from tempering, a long but important process where chocolate is repeatedly melted and cooled to specific temperatures to reach a specific phase (there are six in total, and phase five is ideal) where a desired crystal structure is formed.

Researchers at the University of Amsterdam have realized that the metamaterial approach can be used to further improve the texture and the biting experience in high-quality chocolate. This happens by creating even more breaks and fractures through a more complex structure than that created by simply pouring molten chocolate into molds. The idea doesn’t replace the tempering process, however, which actually posed unique challenges when researchers turned to 3D printers to make their chocolate treats.

Molten chocolate that had been tempered to the stage where phase V crystals formed was loaded into syringes that had to be held at 90 degrees Fahrenheit while the printer built structures layer by layer. But maintaining that temperature proved to be a challenge, requiring constant recalibration to account for the chocolate thickening over time. Using 3D printers with a plastic extruder is tricky enough – but swapping that for tempered chocolate sounds like a real nightmare.

The results were shared in a recently published article, “Edible mechanical metamaterials with engineered fracture for mouthfeel controlin the magazine soft material. They confirmed what the researchers speculated: the perceived quality and pleasure of eating chocolate could be improved by increasing the number of cracks felt when biting into a piece through S-shaped structures of increasing complexity. The researchers also found that the experience could be enhanced by creating chocolate with anisotropic structures that alter the resistance felt when biting through shapes and patterns that shear and break with force applied in specific directions. .

Will we soon see companies like Lindt or Cadbury rolling out metamaterial-inspired treats? Probably not, but the research has other interesting food applications. Using similar manufacturing processes, the texture of artificial meat could be enhanced to feel like it’s biting into real meat, or changed into something completely different for those put off by traditional meat texture. It could also be used to make foods that still taste delicious (or at least trick the brain into thinking they do) but are easier to consume for those with chewing or swallowing issues.