It's not just the ice cream of the future that will benefit from research, however. The last time you polished off a double-decker cone, you were enjoying the results of some serious scientific investigation.
Today, Goff and other ice cream experts presented the science, technology, and cultural trends that go into making the perfect scoop, at a session on "The Science of Ice Cream," at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Annual Meeting.
Ice cream gets its creamy texture from the way that fat molecules, air bubbles, and ice crystals are assembled within a highly concentrated mixture of sugar-water. Getting this assemblage right is no easy task, according to Goff, who uses electron microscopy to zoom in on ice cream's molecular makeup.
"Ice cream is a very complex product to manufacture, especially since the industry has changed considerably over the last couple of decades," Goff said. "You can make a very good gallon of ice cream in the kitchen without knowing anything about the science [of the process]. But, if you're trying to send ice cream around the world and make it last, so that the person who eats it gets a smooth product, there is a lot to learn." Goff's microscopy images of ice cream reveal a matrix of tiny fat globules, surrounding air bubbles and ice crystals. Ice cream is an emulsion-like oil and vinegar salad dressing-so the matrix of fat particles must be stabilized by milk proteins to prevent the fat from clumping together. The other component of the emulsion is a solution of sugar-water, from which the ice crystals form during freezing. The solution never freezes completely, allowing ice cream to be scooped and chewed at freezer temperatures.
Contact: Monica Amarelo
American Association for the Advancement of Science