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
10/09/21
The Guardian

To study the stuff of the universe, you have to block it out, and that is exactly what a bold project in regional Victoria is trying to do.

10/05/21
New York Times

The work of Syukuro Manabe, Klaus Hasselmann and Giorgio Parisi “demonstrate that our knowledge about the climate rests on a solid scientific foundation,” the committee said.

10/04/21
Black Hills Pioneer

As the Sanford Lab prepares a proposal to become formally recognized as a Department of Energy User Facility, scientists from all over the world met virtually to discuss a myriad of future experiments.

09/17/21
Nature

Hints of a previously unknown, primordial form of the substance could explain why the cosmos now seems to be expanding faster than theory predicts.