Nanotechnology makes three-course meal in a single stick of chewing gum possible
It didn’t work out that well for poor Violet Beauregarde in Willy Wonka’s factory.
But now researchers say they may have cracked the secret behind creating a sweet that replicates three meals in a single stick of chewing gum.
Scientists at the Institute of Food Research (IFR) say the latest technology could be used to turn Willy Wonka’s eccentric invention into reality - but without the unpleasant side effects.
Food scientist Dave Hart believes that recent advances in nanotechnology, which deals with structures just millionths of a millimetre in size, could capture and release flavours in a precisely controlled way.
Hart and his team are experimenting with creating different flavour layers, based on a 17th Century ‘preserve’. The flavours are separated with a tasteless gelatine that stops them from overlapping, with a final dessert taste at the centre, encapsulated in a high-tech gel called Gellan.
In Roald Dahl’s book Charlie And The Chocolate Factory, Willy Wonka proudly displays a stick of Three-Course Dinner Chewing Gum, which he claims can reproduce the flavours of every individual course of a full meal.
The gum is able to convey the flavours of 'tomato soup, roast beef and baked potato, and blueberry pie and ice cream', he claims.
But, unfortunately for prolific gum-chewer Violet Beauregarde, the gum is not quite ready and has the unfortunate side-effect that it turns the user into a giant blueberry before they reach dessert.
Hart says: ‘Wonka’s fantasy concoction has been nothing but a dream for millions of kids across the world. But science and technology is changing the future of food, and these nanoparticles may hold the answer to creating a three course gourmet gum.’
He said that scientists at Harvard University have been working on nanostructures called colloidosomes, which can be used to capture ingredients. Their findings could be a step towards developing this gum.
He said: ‘Tiny nanostructures within the gum would contain each of the different flavours. These would be broken up and released upon contact with saliva or after a certain amount of chewing.
‘The tomato soup capsule would break on contact with saliva, followed by roast beef and blueberry pie in stronger structures - providing a sequential taste explosion as you chew harder.'
The gum would only work as a sweet, however, and would not reproduce the feeling of being full nor would it provide any vital nutrients.
Hart came up with the plans for the Willy Wonka’s sweet as part of his work with the National Science & Engineering Competition to inspire young scientists.
He said that it could be some time before the gum is created, however. 'The mechanism exists but the technique and flavours need perfecting.'
Hart hopes his chewing gum will inspire young people to put their own projects and inventions in the spotlight as part of the National Science & Engineering Competition, which has a £50,000 prize pot and is open to 11 to 18-year-olds until October 31. See www.nationalsciencecompetition.org for more details.
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