Enormous food waste worldwide has huge environmental and cost efficiency impact. Chemical deterioration caused by e.g. oxidation of lipids, vitamins and other food constituents are causes of waste. Many foods are emulsions stabilized by surfactants. Apart from providing physical stability to the emulsions, the emulsifier type and the physical structure of the emulsions can affect chemical stability.
Conventional surfactants have dominated emulsion science due to their ease of use, relatively low cost and control. However, their future industrial use is under threat, because of formulation foaming problems and the need to reduce volatile organic compounds and carbon footprints. The use of so-called Pickering particles for production of physically stable emulsions may be a solution to these problems and may also improve the oxidative stability of the emulsions.
Pickering particles have gotten their name after S. U. Pickering who discovered the phenomenon that particles can reside at the interface of droplets and bubbles, thereby providing them with resistance against fusion (coalescence) and coarsening (Ostwald ripening). This means that the droplets and foams become physically stable. One example is table spread/margarine formulations, where fat crystals sit on the surface of water droplets dispersed into the oil matrix. Another example is the use of Pickering particles in a low fat chocolate. While the basic principle of stabilizing emulsions with Pickering particles seems simple, stabilization of complex foods is a complicated physical problem far from trivial, and limited information is currently available for food systems. There is also a need to develop new food grade Pickering particles. The commercial applications of Pickering emulsions and foams have for a long time been scarce, but there is an increasing interest from companies to apply Pickering emulsions and foams. Hence, PICKFOOD aims to develop novel Pickering emulsions for Food Applications.
The PICKFOOD project will therefore provide a framework and novel methodologies to study and develop Pickering emulsions and to evaluate their applications in safe, healthy and functional foods in collaboration with the food industry. Achieving this goal involves a combination of soft matter physics and food colloid science deepening our physical understanding of emulsion stability and processing, preparation of food-grade Pickering particles as well as characterizing them by highly advanced methods not traditionally used in food science.
Moreover, physics and food science will join forces in electrohydrodynamic processing to avoid the deterioration of thermo-sensitive compounds during encapsulation since the solvents are evaporated at low temperature. PICKFOOD assembles a multisectoral team of scientists to train young researchers and provide them with the combination of skills from soft matter physics and food colloid science. We want to specifically provide them with technological and methodological competences to advance the field of Pickering emulsions for food production and associated characterization methods and help them to utilize the experience from PICKFOOD in their individual careers.