Artificial mouth

PhD student at the University of Missouri Columbia, Seo-Jing Chung, is using an artificial "mouth" to test ice-cream flavours.

This mouth, made of glass, is fed ice cream - and then an enzyme is added which acts in the same way as human saliva, while a piece of moving metal imitates the actions of the tongue.

The microscopic material which carries flavour is forced out by an infusion of nitrogen gas - and then caught by an absorbent strip.

These trapped flavours are then analysed and displayed in the form of a computer read-out, with the peaks representing precise aspects of flavour.

Describing what happens when we eat ice cream, Seo-Jing Chung says: “When you masticate food, essentially, flavour volatiles come out from the food matrix to the head space and it moves over to your nasal cavity.”

The serious business of ice cream also requires human testing.

As well as reacting to the flavour of ice creams, the human testers are also sometimes required to wear apparatus that fires the microscopic units of flavour up their noses.

As part of the research programme into ice cream, the university produces its own ice cream and sells it through its own ice cream parlour.

This is described as a “classroom, laboratory and commercial ice cream plant”.