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AFM for Food Science Research

Chocolate imaged using atomic force microscopy

Atomic force microscopy can provide unique data in food science. Researchers are looking at the structure of molecules in conditions close to native conditions (e.g. gelatin, casein, xanthin polysaccharides, pectins, amylose, and soy proteins). Larger structures are also being studied, such as polysaccharide gels, starch, gum, chocolate, and milk micelles.

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AFM can provide high resolution images of small molecules and bigger structures. In food science, understanding the structure of foods such as chocolate can help improve the quality in terms of taste as a function of composition, additives, and processing variables. The unique ability of AFM to measure nanomechanical properties at the nanoscale can help distinguish different materials in blends. Samples can be investigated in air, at controlled humidity, or in a liquid environment. Finally, the effect of temperature can be investigated by heating or cooling the entire sample, or local thermal analysis can be used to probe phase transitions at the nanoscale.

  • Food structure and functionality
  • Physico-chemical properties of food biopolymer (protein, carbohydrate polymer, etc.)
  • Food nanotechnology

C. V. L. Giosafatto, P. D. Pierro, P. Gunning, A. Mackie, R. Porta, and L. Mariniello, "Characterization of Citrus pectin edible films containing transglutaminase-modified phaseolin," Carbohydr. Polym. 106, 200-208 (2014). doi:10.1016/j.carbpol.2014.02.015

A. Gromer, and A. Patrick Gunning, "Atomic Force Spectroscopy of Interactions between Oil Droplets in Emulsions," Microscopy and Analysis 25, 9-12 (2011). link to magazine

A. P. Gunning, A. R. Kirby, C. Fuell, C. Pin, L. E. Tailford, and N. Juge, "Mining the "glycocode"--exploring the spatial distribution of glycans in gastrointestinal mucin using force spectroscopy," The FASEB Journal 27, 2342-2354 (2013). doi:10.1096/fj.12-221416

S. U. Kadam, S. Pankaj, B. K. Tiwari, P. Cullen, and C. P. O'Donnell, "Development of biopolymer-based gelatin and casein films incorporating brown seaweed Ascophyllum nodosum extract," Food Packaging and Shelf Life 6, 68-74 (2015). doi:10.1016/j.fpsl.2015.09.003

D. Middendorf, A. Juadjur, U. Bindrich, and P. Mischnick, "AFM approach to study the function of PGPR's emulsifying properties in cocoa butter based suspensions," Food Structure 4, 16-26 (2015). doi:10.1016/j.foostr.2014.11.003