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New Way of Making Chocolate Comes With Electric Fields... and 20% Less Fat

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Yeah science! Too good to be true?

It's doable!

The technique is borrowed from prior work on reducing the viscosity of crude oil and works by changing the structure of small cocoa particles suspended in the mixture of oil and fat which comprises the rest of the chocolate. (The temperature of the chocolate does not change during the process.)

After passing through the electrical fields, "individual cocoa solids [are] transformed from symmetrical circles to elongated, pill-shaped chains," the researchers wrote in the paper that appeared in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, according to the Times

The resulting mixture is both less viscous and denser than the original chocolate, and could enable chocolate producers to use approximately 10-20% less fat without sludging up production machinery.

But, most importantly, according to the study authors, the stuff tastes pretty good, too.

Seems pretty doable and very clever. I want to try some!

Solid science and the randomness of balls:

Imagine a bunch of identical balls thrown into a container, Tao said. Even when the container is full, there are still air pockets between the balls. But no amount of liquid would move them, once they’re all jammed together.

As no less a scientist than Albert Einstein has observed, the randomness of the balls is what drives the thickness, or viscosity, of the liquid. This principle applies to the cocoa solids in chocolate.

So to keep chocolate fluid enough to flow through processing machines, there has to be a certain amount of melted fat mixed in. If chocolate is too thick and gooey, it simply won’t move at the required pace.

Tao and his colleagues thought they might be able to solve the problem by borrowing an electric pulse technique from the oil industry.


Then Tao had an amazing insight: “I realized, this technology can not only reduce the viscosity, it can reduce the level of fat.”

With the chocolate flowing more freely, it takes less fat to keep the chocolate from clogging up the works. In several trials, the researchers found that they could decrease the fat content by 10% to 20%.

As if that weren’t enough, some members of the research team thought the electric-field-treated chocolate tasted better, too. By reducing the fat content, the cocoa solids have more of a chance to stand out, said Tao, who added that he now has more than 300 pounds of leftover chocolate in his lab.

To the lab!


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