3dprinted food
​3D-printed chicken and broccoli

Food and materials - how can that be combined?

​Mats Stading is newly elected to the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences' National Committee for Nutrition and Food Science and continues the work of uniting the two areas of food and materials. The aim of the National Committees is to promote research and education in their subject areas, as well as to promote collaboration with related disciplines.
Mats Stading is adjunct professor at the Department of Industrial and Materials Science, where his research is mainly focused on biological materials. The research issues include extrusion of proteins and polysaccharides that have applications as barriers in packaging, absorbents for wound care or as matrices for cell culture.
 
– Biopolymers from forests and agriculture often behave like petroleum-based polymers, that is plastics, and can be shaped in a similar way. They are sensitive to water though, which determines the areas of use. This property is excellent for materials that will eventually degrade, but is negative for construction materials, Mats Stading states.
 

3D-printed food makes it easier for the elderly to swallow

When Mats is not at the Department of Industrial and Materials Science, he works at the RISE Research Institutes of Sweden at Agriculture and Food. His research at RISE deals with food of the future rather than with biomaterials. The RISE research group in Product Design develops food for the elderly with swallowing difficulties, plant-based alternatives to meat, cultured muscles, personalized, 3D-printed food and new advanced analytical methods. Unlike construction materials, food is 3D-printed from a viscoelastic paste which is then solidified or heat-treated. The technology is well suited for personalised food with a specific texture, nutritional content, taste or appearance. Many seniors experience difficulties in swallowing as they get older (40% of everyone over the age of 70) and need food with an adjusted consistency. It should be easy to chew and swallow but still resemble ordinary food as much as possible. A solution is to print a puree of, for example broccoli mixed with egg that exactly looks and tastes like a broccoli bouquet but has the right consistency for safe swallowing.
 
A common theme for Mats’ research is flow behaviour, or rheology, for various systems.
 
– Food and materials may seem to be two completely different areas, but the basic materials science is the same. To extrude a foamed protein or starch material, we must control the flow behaviour in the extruder. The resulting porous material can be used equally well as shock absorbers in packaging, for cell culture or as cheese doodles. The materials and science are the same even though the applications are completely different, Mats explains.
 
 Read more about the research group Polymeric materials and composites

Published: Fri 23 Oct 2020.