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Most quality changes in food processing and storage, either desired or detrimental, may result from chemical and enzymatic changes, microbial growth, and structural transformations. The key factors controlling these changes, safety, and consumer appeal are composition, temperature, time and water content. Glassy foods are often stable due to restricted molecular mobility while changes occur in the supercooled liquid state above glass transition temperature, Tg. However, very little and controversial data exist on molecular mobility, reaction rates, and microbial growth in concentrated and frozen food systems. In the present work we are concerned with the effects of various types of molecular mobility, i.e. secondary relaxations such as rotation of side chains, glass transition allowing segmental motions, and rotational and translational diffusion on observed changes in food properties and quality. Our project challenge the benefits and applicability of the polymer science theories in improving food quality and safety. The general objectives of the proposed work are : to increase knowledge of various types of molecular mobility in food and related materials and to provide scientific basis for the improvement of food quality and consumer appeal by control of molecular mobility in food processing and storage. A subsidiary objective will be to facilitate the development of non-food products based on renewable biomaterials.

The specific objectives of the proposed work are :

- to determine various types of molecular mobility in amorphous food and related materials at low-water contents and in the frozen, freeze-concentrated state;
- to relate observed molecular mobility to the physical state, composition, water content and temperature;
- to establish relationships between molecular mobility, physico-chemical properties, and kinetics of physico-chemical changes and;
- to identify the extent to which the control of molecular mobility and manipulation of food composition in processing and storage can be used for the enhancement and optimisation of nutritional and overall food quality and consumer appeal.

The project participants address a highly-integrated multidisciplinary approach provided by nine leading European research groups in the area. Some specific work will be subcontracted to further groups in relevant areas. Most partners and subcontractors have previous collaboration and participate in the European ISOPOW (International Symposium on Properties of Water) activities.

To ensure the widest possible dissemination and application of the research throughout Europe, an Industrial Advisory Board with invited industrialists will be established. This IAB will take an active involvement in the technical content, effective management of the project, and arrangement of workshops. It will also contribute to the feedback as to scientific progress and technological potential to the Community services.

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Participants (5)