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Nestle Conducts Experiments in Zero Gravity With the European Space Agency

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Nestle Conducts Experiments in Zero Gravity With the European Space Agency

Nestle Conducts Experiments in Zero Gravity With the European Space Agency
July 09
09:47 2012

Nestle is using zero gravity research to develop its understanding of the foam technology used in its products. The study could help Nestle scientists create better air bubbles in chocolate, coffee, dairy and pet food.

Scientists at the Nestle Research Center in Switzerland are working with the European Space Agency (ESA) on foam experiments designed to produce the ‘perfect’ bubble. Bubbles are added to products, like chocolate mousse and coffee froth, to make the right texture or consistency. The company recently conducted zero gravity research on ‘parabolic’ flights with the European Space Agency and a team of international foam research scientists.

Before the flights, Nestle scientists placed six 5ml samples of water and milk protein in a special machine that analyses the structure of foam, carried on board the European Space Agency sponsored A300 airbus plane. Flying at a maximum height of 28,000 ft (8,500m), the plane made about 30 ‘parabolas’, or up-and-down dips, creating weightlessness inside the fuselage in short bursts.

The stability of the bubbles determines the shelf-life of a number of products and is key to the consumer’s taste experience.

“We want to make a near to ‘perfect’ bubble in order to achieve the right balance for different products in our range – not too big, not too small,” says Dr Cecile Gehin-Delval, a scientist at the Nestle Research Center. “Stable foam in chocolate mousse gives the feeling of creaminess in the mouth. To make fine coffee froth, we want to create stable little bubbles to make it light and creamy.”

Foam is easier to study under zero gravity conditions because weightlessness causes bubbles to be evenly dispersed rather than floating to the top. Nestle has been following ESA’s activities in this field for over a decade. This is now the first time Nestle is conducting foam experiments in zero gravity conditions.

“Gaining a better understanding of foam may help improve the texture of our products,” she adds.

ESA conducts experiments in physical and life sciences, human physiology including nutrition and biology, environmental sciences and research on the International Space Station (ISS). Nestle will now be able to use a foaming device on the ISS which was developed by the European Space Agency to study foam in zero gravity for a longer period of time.

Nestle was the first food and beverage company to use space research starting in the late 1980s. Nestle scientists studied the mechanism of the effect of muscle loss in astronauts on a multinational flight with a German space lab in 1993 to help improve Nestle healthcare products.

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