The use of ultrasonics for characterising fats and emulsions
Ultrasonics has not found widespread use in the food industry, despite having considerable potential for characterising food materials. This is due to the complexity and diversity of food materials, the lack of suitable instrumentation and a poor understanding of how ultrasound interacts with many food components. In this work it is shown how a good appreciation of the theories describing ultrasonic propagation in heterogeneous materials, coupled with careful experimental design, leads to many new applications of ultrasonics for characterising fats and emulsions. Ultrasonic measurements were made using either a pulse echo technique (1-10MHz), or a pulse echo interferometric technique (5-55MHz). The ultrasonic velocities of a series of 0-30% w/w glyceride/oil mixtures and some commercial fats were measured with varying temperature (0-70°C) at 1MHz. Ultrasonic scattering was not important in these systems and so empirical equations or simple (SFC) theoretical formulae could be used to relate the measured velocities to the solid fat contents (SFC) of the samples. There were very significant correlations between the SFCs determined using ultrasonics and those determined using pulsed NMR (r > 0.99), and so ultrasonics should prove a useful adjunct or alternative to NMR. Velocity measurements also proved useful for characterising vegetable oils since the velocity of an oil could be related to its glyceride composition. The ultrasonic velocity and attenuation of a series of sunflower oil and water emulsions mean were measured with varying frequency (1-55MHz) mean, droplet size (0.1-0.9μm), disperse phase mass fraction (0-0.5) and emulsion type (0/W and W/O). Scattering was significant in these emulsions and could be used to measure their disperse phase mass fractions and particle size distributions. Ultrasonics has important advantages over existing techniques for this type of measurement since it can be used in emulsions which are optically opaque, in a non-intrusive, non-invasive manner.