Research in the Food Process Engineering Laboratory at ETH Zurich focuses both on process engineering and food/biomaterials science. Our research incorporates both aspects of these two disciplines, and typically addresses the basic question: How does mechanical treatment influence food structure and vice versa, how the tuning of specific food properties due to well-characterized processes can be achieved?
The process engineering research incorporates traditional engineering methodology as it relates to complex food systems. The overall goal is to understand and develop new processes that directly improve the state-of-the-art in food structuring. Topics include areas such as the mixing and dispersing of industrial chocolates, extrusion of ice cream while in the frozen state, foaming of protein/hydrocolloid-stabilized dispersions, and spinning of proteins to produce filaments. The work is documented in numerous peer-reviewed papers and patents while its relevance is demonstrated in ongoing projects with major food, chemical, and pharmaceutical companies.
In support of this engineering approach, we have established a materials science sub-group to characterize material and flow properties of food components. We employ both traditional measurements and several innovative techniques to investigate the structuring on multiple length and time scales. The main focus of this research involves the investigation of idealized systems with interesting rheological or microstructuring behavior that are models for complex food systems. Projects include studies of model surfactant systems with unstable flow properties, biopolymer stability and gelation, model protein-polysaccharide dispersions for soft-cheese products, and interfacial modification of emulsion systems.