The Future of Food is Tiny

April 24 2008 / by juldrich / In association with Future
Category: Business & Work   Year: General   Rating: 10 Hot

By Jack Uldrich

Cross-posted from

The famous artist Leonardo da Vinci once offered the following pearl of wisdom: “Study the art of science and the science of art.” It is advice that food scientists have taken to heart in spades. However, as a result of advances in the new emerging field of nanotechnology – which is briefly defined as manipulating atoms at the molecular level in order to make new products – scientists and other food professionals will now be required to apply their understanding of science to a level that is so infinitesimally small that it is hard to grasp. One nanometer is roughly 100,000 times thinner than a human hair.

But to professionals in a field where it is not uncommon that a pinch of a spice or a few extra seconds of heat to an ingredient can make the difference between a good meal and a great one, it will be important to understand that at the nanoscale the weird world of quantum mechanics kicks in and materials and ingredients begin to manifest entirely new characteristics, and it is scientists ability to manipulate these new and enhanced characteristics that lies at the heart of the fields ability to transform virtually every aspect of food. (For a good, short primer, I recommend this recent article describing Nestle’s use of nanotechnology to create foods with optimal stability, nutrient delivery, flavors and aromas.)

A New Sharper Knife

Today, the food scientist must concern him or herself with issues of health and nutrition, good and bad fats, sanitation, packaging and, of course, pairings, aromas, textures, sensations and flavors. The ability to apply modern science to culinary problems in these latter areas has sometimes called “molecular gastronomy.” Nanotechnology will require culinlogists to take this skill to a new and smaller level. (cont.)

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