A joint Fermilab/SLAC publication

Chocolat à la particle accelerator

02/14/11

If your sweetheart gave you chocolate this Valentine’s Day, you have a particle accelerator to thank for its scrumptious taste.

Food scientists used an accelerator-based light source to determine how to avoid the white powder than can form on chocolate known as fat bloom.

Food scientists used an accelerator-based light source to determine how to avoid the white powder than can form on chocolate. (Image courtesy of ESRF)

Using the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility, ESRF, in Grenoble, France, scientists from the University of Amsterdam got a close-up view of the molecular structure of chocolate. Their research allowed candy manufacturers to develop new techniques that could avoid the dreaded “fat bloom” -  the white powder that can form on the outside of chocolate.

A basic chocolate recipe consists of roughly one-third cocoa butter, a fat that crystalizes easily. How the butter crystalizes determines the quality of the chocolate. In order to obtain the ideal crystal form, chocolate manufacturers repeatedly heat the butter to a specific temperature and then cool it down. If the chocolate doesn’t reach its ideal crystal state, it will develop the “fat bloom.”

Until recently, food scientists didn’t know what the cocoa crystals looked like and thus didn’t know how to avoid the bloom. But with the help of the accelerator-based light source, scientists were able to use a focused beam of light to see the crystal structure of cocoa butter for the first time. The data helped food scientists understand the melting properties of cocoa butter and therefore how to control the production process. The Dutch machine manufacturer, Duyvis Wiener, used the research to patent a new technology in 2004 for making chocolate without the bloom.

So as you thank your sweetheart today, send some love to particle accelerators too.

Latest news articles
07/21/17

Watch the underground groundbreaking

This afternoon, watch a livestream of the start of excavation for the future home of the Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment.

07/20/17
Stanford

Stanford and University of California researchers found evidence of particles that are their own antiparticles. These 'Majorana fermions’  could one day help make quantum computers more robust.

07/10/17
Daily Herald

Hugh Lippincott, a Fermilab scientist, went on a Skype date while looking for dark matter. He writes that things turned out fine.

07/06/17
CERN

The LHCb experiment at CERN has reported the observation of a new particle containing two charm quarks and one up quark.