The National Food Imaging Centre (NFIC) based at the Teagasc Moorepark Research Centre is the first of its kind in Ireland and comprises a suite of state-of-the-art imaging tools specifically chosen for studying food microstructure. This new imaging equipment builds on existing microstructure expertise in Teagasc and complements indirect analytical techniques for characterising food structure such as rheology, laser scattering and various spectroscopic methods. The NFIC, jointly funded by the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and Teagasc, is now fully operational and provides a comprehensive range of light, confocal, electron and atomic force microscopes.
Teagasc Research Dr Mark Auty describes the range of equipment available to Irish food processors. "The new equipment strengthens the research and development capabilities of the Irish food industry by providing access to highly specialised microscopy techniques and expertise in food structure analysis. Any food or beverage product can be examined with minimal sample preparation. Typical applications include: powder characterisation, emulsion stability, phase separation, droplet sizing, microstructure of natural foods, microstructure of processed foods and packaging materials," said Dr Auty.
The NFIC is a key element of the recently launched Teagasc Vision programme and is currently integrated into two microstructure-based projects: 'Creaminess perception' and 'Optimisation and characterisation of protein nano-fibrils'.