Microstructured Fibers for the Production of Food

Food engineering faces the difficult challenge of combining taste, i.e., tailoring texture and rheology of food matrices with the balanced intake of healthy nutrients. In materials science, fiber suspensions and composites have been developed as a versatile and successful approach to tailor rheology while imparting materials with added functionalities. Structures based on such types of physical (micro)fibers are however rare in food production mainly due to a lack of food‐grade materials and processes allowing for the fabrication of fibers with controlled sizes and microstructures. Here, the controlled fabrication of multi‐material microstructured edible fibers is demonstrated using a food compatible process based on preform‐to‐fiber thermal drawing. It is shown that different material systems based on gelatin or casein, with plasticizers such as glycerol, can be thermally drawn into fibers with various geometries and cross‐sectional structures. It is demonstrated that fibers can exhibit tailored mechanical properties post‐drawing, and can encapsulate nutrients to control their release. The versatility of fiber materials is also exploited to demonstrate the fabrication of food‐grade fabrics and scaffolds for food growth. The end results establish a new field in food production that relies on fiber‐based simple and eco‐friendly processes to realize enjoyable yet healthy and nutritious products.

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Advanced Materials, 1807282
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 Record created 2019-03-15, last modified 2020-04-20

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