Unilever uses Avizo software to visualize and understand food and detergent structures

Gerard van Dalen, Unilever R&D Vlaardingen (The Netherlands)

Food and detergent products are composed of complex micro structures. With modern microscopic techniques we can make them visible. The microstructure greatly affects macroscopic properties such as appearance, taste, mouth feel and solubility. Making these structures visible and quantifying them is essential to the development of products with optimal product properties. A broad range of imaging techniques is used to visualize microstructure elements at different length scales. For example, X-ray microtomography (μCT) is used to reveal the real 3D structure at μm-mm level and transmission electron microscopy (TEM) at nm levels.

To understand structure property relations it is important to know the interaction between structure elements and to obtain information about structural changes in time. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is used to analyse the structural changes in food and detergents during processing and storage. The internal 3D structure at sub mm level, the water distribution and status can be visualised in real time.