edible Pickering Emulsion Technology (ePET)

Lead Research Organisation: University of Birmingham
Department Name: Chemical Engineering


Obesity is placing an increasing burden on health services as well as lowering life quality; the direct cost of obesity to NHS
is £4.2bn (£16bn indirect costs), forecasted by Foresight to more than double (and to reach £50bn indirect costs) by 2050.
Healthy foods can help ease this strain, however consumers still expect these to provide a pleasurable eating experience.
This requires formulation of food products of "invisibly" reduced fat, identical in taste and "convenience" to their full-fat
counterparts. Reduced-fat healthy foods based on double emulsions could achieve just that. Nonetheless uses of double
emulsion technology in foods are absent due to technological issues in need of break-through innovation. This project
proposes the design, development and ability to manufacture novel, multifunctional, high value, Pickering-stabilised double
emulsions for the development of foods specifically formulated with reference to fat reduction.

At a conceptual level, double emulsions offer enormous potential in the development of healthy foods; namely because
they impart an "unperceived" fat reduction in foods but also by "invisibly" carrying and delivering nutrients and bioactives
without compromising on taste. Although "simple" emulsions are well-established systems in many commercial areas
(including foods), science and technological knowledge are not yet available to allow double emulsions to be commercially
produced. To achieve this, innovation is needed to overcome processing and stability issues currently associated with
double emulsions; (a) Processing issues: double emulsions are produced by a 2-step emulsification process. However the
2nd step can "damage" the primary structure resulting in inconsistent emulsions, and thus double structures that are prone
to destabilisation (Ostwald ripening). (b) Stability issues: double emulsions are stabilised by at least two low molecular
weight surfactants. These tend to migrate between the two opposit curved interfaces, eventually leading to the collapse
of the double structure. This destabilisation process is accelerated by Laplace pressure and chemical potential differences
between the two aqueous phases of the double structure. This collaborative R&D project will address these important
technological challenges; namely the ability to produce double emulsions consistently through a range of processes, to
deliver double emulsions with long-term stability and to formulate these complex microstructures with significantly reduced
emulsifier levels. Evidence from the University of Birmingham suggests that both the processing and stability issues
currently associated with double emulsions can be potentially addressed by the use of Pickering particles. However edible
structures that can be used as Pickering particles are currently unavailable. This project will deliver both the formulation
design rules and processing routes in order to manufacture stable edible Pickering particles. The proposed project
programme is carefully designed to quickly recognise potential edible Pickering particles and edible Pickering double
emulsions "technologies" for use in prototype manufacture, to scale-up the processes to produce these and finally to
sensorially evaluate the manufactured prototypes and establish whether they can deliver acceptable fat-reduced food

The project team provides a unique and synergistic offering which will catalyse different thinking, approaches and pave the
way for innovation, through understanding of surface chemistries, advances in process engineering, measurement and
characterisation. The proposed research program involves the University of Birmingham (UoB), Cargill and Unilever. The technology developed and understanding gained from this collaboration will enable many new applications and foods to
reach the market, with IPR from this project also expected to be commercially innovative.

Planned Impact

Manufacturing/industrial impacts will include:

- Cargill (lead) and Unilever will both be involved in the ePET project and as a result the Food (and to an extent the
HPC) industrial sector will benefit immediately from this research with the two industrial consortium members realising the
initial impact of the new technologies. However, the information generated will also be of benefit to other sectors
(pharmaceutical/medical, crop protection, etc) and we will ensure it is made available to a wide range of companies across
all manufacturing sectors via current industrial contacts through the UoB's "Formulation Engineering EngD scheme" and
other programmes/research collaborations at the School of Chemical Engineering, UoB. In addition, the generic learnings
from the initial activities will be disseminated and exploited more widely through research publications and conferences and
consequently the underlying technologies will have a far-reaching impact.

- A major impact from the ePET project will be that, by interfacing the formulation and manufacturing industrial sectors,
the project will drive the research agenda through proposals to BBSRC, EPSRC, TSB, etc. This, together with the
consortium's individual research interactions currently in place, would create a real opportunity to define the future funding
strategy through further collaborative programmes at a TSB demonstrator level. The scheme will unite three internationally
leading teams to develop formulation and processing engineering technologies in directions that would not be possible in
isolation; forming a unique skill set in Food formulation engineering and Food manufacturing in the UK which will be at the
forefront of international research.

Technological impacts will include:
- New industry practice and products designed using the technologies developed within the ePET project, i.e. concurrent
design of process and product to deliver complex microstructure(s) for product effect. The ePET project will as a result
seed and deliver the innovation to develop new formulation and manufacturing methods. The results will enable the
development of new products and processes and thus impact both on the profitability of the companies (and their ability to
keep manufacturing in the UK) and on consumers by delivering healthier safe food products.

- Publications and dissemination; we will publish in the academic literature as well as in trade journals, and also
presented in key national and international conferences in order to advance the technological impacts from this project.
Policy impacts will include:

- Food policy. The delivery of new functional structures that can be constructed to stabilise emulsions would lead to the
reduced usage of scarce emulsifiers and thus would be of great benefit in Food sustainability. More efficient use of scarce
raw materials that will reduce the environmental impact of the Foods and Fast Moving Consumer Goods industries, will be
of value to industry, consumers and policymakers. The outcomes will inform policy in areas such as food sustainability and

- Professional institutions - Participation at IChemE/RSC/ISPE meetings to disseminate the generic learnings from the
ePET project and influence future training needs of the professions and how the outputs of the project can influence the
strategies of the institutions.


10 25 50
Description A range of edible Pickering particles have been produced. These are based on a range of different ingredients including waxes, triglycerides, Flavonoids, hydrocolloids etc

These particles have been used to stabilise emulsion droplets
Exploitation Route These particles could be used as food ingredients and supplied for a range of products
Sectors Agriculture, Food and Drink

Description Pickering particles could be used to stabilise emulsions for specific applications in foods i.e. reduced oxidative damage of sensitive materials, fat replacement approaches etc
First Year Of Impact 2014
Sector Agriculture, Food and Drink
Impact Types Economic

Description Collaboration Prof Yeomans 
Organisation University of Sussex
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution A number of new collaborations have resulted from the DRINC club. These now both have a PhD studentship funded by industry. In addition, academic contacts and small scale collaborations have started with a Professor at the Institute of Nanosciences (Paris) There is potentially two new industrial collaboration (1) with Kraft and (2) with Diageo
Start Year 2010
Description Brum dine with me 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? Yes
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact A large number of the general public attended.

Researchers have been invited to talk to schools.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013