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FlexAFM Enables Food Powder Research at the University of Lorraine


The LlBio laboratory at the University of Lorraine in France is a distinguished research facility, celebrated for its depth of knowledge across various biological domains. It spearheads research, nurturing innovation and scientific progress both locally and on the global stage. With its multidisciplinary ethos and cutting-edge infrastructure, the laboratory remains a pivotal contributor to biological science.

Jennifer Burgain, an Associate Professor of food science at LlBio, faced a complex issue concerning food powders. These powders, made up of distinct particles, have surface characteristics that are integral to their functionality, especially in terms of flowability and reconstitution. The overarching aim was to develop food products that showcased peak functional attributes, prioritizing flowability and reconstitution. This emphasis is crucial since food powders, typically designed for extended storage, have a reduced water content, which curtails unwanted reactions such as bacterial proliferation and enzymatic activities. Yet, their efficacy can be influenced by temperature and humidity shifts during prolonged storage and global distribution.

NSF Insights featured image - 400x300 px-2The move to invest in an AFM stemmed from the dedication to meticulously characterize the surfaces of food powders, ensuring the delivery of products with unwavering and superior functional attributes, irrespective of environmental fluctuations. AFM has been instrumental in addressing these specialized challenges in food science. Dr. Burgain's prior engagements with AFM during her academic pursuits equipped her with the insight to discern its potential for the type of analysis required here. In her postdoctoral phase within an industry-led project, she had adeptly employed the AFM to scrutinize food powders, unearthing valuable insights into particle behaviors.

However, a certain ambiguity about the sample's nature had to be addressed before making the final decision to purchase an AFM. Given the relatively large dimensions of the food powders and their pronounced height variations compared to standard AFM samples, the quest was to pinpoint an AFM system that could adeptly analyze such samples without breaking the budget.

Dr. Burgain's introduction to Nanosurf was through a colleague's recommendation. Confronted with the unique challenge of analyzing the samples, Nanosurf emerged as the sole provider offering a top-tier solution with an impressive balance of cost and quality. Nanosurf's proactive engagement, coupled with their invaluable advice on AFM studies, set them apart. Their introduction of a pivotal feature—an environmental chamber for modulating temperature and humidity during experiments—was a cornerstone for food powder research. Engaging dialogues with Nanosurf and a hands-on demonstration at the LlBio laboratory solidified the choice: the Nanosurf FlexAFM. For LlBio, Nanosurf's offering was unparalleled, leading to the selection of the FlexAFM equipped with the environmental chamber.

FlexAFM-camera-overviewThis innovation has been transformative, with the LIBio team now pioneering the scanning of food powders with precise control over temperature and humidity. This capability allows them to monitor particle surface alterations in response to temperature or humidity changes. With Nanosurf’s FlexAFM, Dr. Burgain and her team have been able to decode larger-scale phenomena through measurements that were previously out of reach.

Dr. Burgain's initial experience with Nanosurf's AFM was positive. With her background in using another AFM, she found Nanosurf's FlexAFM to be more intuitive and user-centric. While there's an inherent learning curve with any AFM, the FlexAFM's learning trajectory is notably smoother.

Today, the FlexAFM remains a linchpin in LIBio's research arsenal, amplifying their investigative prowess and deepening their comprehension of food powders and associated phenomena. At its core, Nanosurf is a compact yet efficient entity, delivering steadfast and high-caliber equipment. Their service ethos is marked by agility and promptness, backed by a team of adept professionals offering unwavering technical and scientific support.

A defining moment was the exhilaration of capturing and detailing the dynamic evolution of food powders as they transitioned through the glass phase, a feat realized through the Nanosurf alliance.

In summary, the partnership with Nanosurf has bolstered the University of Lorraine's LlBio laboratory's research capabilities, paving the way for novel explorations and pioneering discoveries in food science and material characterization.


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