14 December 2011

Robert Feidenhans'l receives 20 million for food product research

Professor Robert Feidenhans'l has received a large grant of almost 20 million kroner from the Danish Council for Strategic Research for a project on groundbreaking new X-ray scanning of food products. The aim is to ensure products of a very high quality, which is important for the Danish food export industry and is of a great help in keeping the Danish food industry competitive.

Higher quality and food safety requires the constant developing of new and effective methods that also examine the interior of the products. Standard controls are far from sufficient, since they only inspect the surface of the products. With traditional X-ray scanning you can scan a product even when it is in a package, but the scanning cannot distinguish differences in contrast, for example, from a soft foreign object.

“We want to develop new X-ray technologies that are suitable for soft materials. This means, for example, that these techniques make it possible to get new contrast mechanisms to differentiate objects that have the same X-ray absorption properties, but have different microstructures. In that way we will be able to find soft materials like dead flies and other insects, paper and plastic, particularly in meat, fish, corn, bread and dairy products”, explains Robert Feidenhans'l, Nano-Science Center,  Niels Bohr Institute at the University of Copenhagen.

Detecting foreign bodies is not the only thing these new techniques can be used for. We will also be able to get information about how the food is constructed and reveal the structure and composition of fiber and fatty acids.

“Developing this X-ray technique both in regards to the detection of foreign bodies and the quality of the product itself will help to bring the Danish food industry to the forefront”, says Robert Feidenhans'l, pointing out that the new X-ray technique will be of great benefit to the research and it is precisely this application that is the intention of the grant.

Because the special aspect of a grant from the Danish Council for Strategic Research is that the researchers should not only produce new knowledge, but it should also be knowledge that the committee believes will be of value to society.

The project is a collaboration between the Faculty of Life Sciences, computer scientists from DTU, electronics companies and a number of companies within the Danish food industry. In connection with the 4-year project around 5 PhD and 2-3 postdoc positions will be created.