Micro- and nano-particles of protein: their interactions in the formation of food gels


Proteins play an important role in food for their nutritional value and texture functionality. Depending on their origin (e.g. plant, animal), their current applicability for texture functionality varies with the type of food product. In order to meet future requirements on protein formulation flexibility more knowledge is needed on the effects of protein type on texture, especially for new alternative protein sources that have only be studied to a small extent. Texture functionality of a protein-based food product is to a large extent determined by the properties of the micro-structural elements (protein molecules, protein aggregates or larger protein assemblies) and their mutual interactions. These microstructural aspects stem from the aggregation behaviour of the protein, which in turn is determined by the molecular properties and interactions.

The goal of the project FS001 is therefore to develop knowledge on molecular-microstructure-texture relationships specifically for plant and animal proteins.


The proposed student project contributes to this aim by comparing protein particles prepared from differing protein sources for their functionality in gels.

Tools to achieve this  

To this end, plant proteins will undergo changes in structure by altering their environment (pH, temperature, ionic strength, pressure). The aim of this is to facilitate interactions among the proteins for the formation of particles, which subsequently evolve into the formation of protein aggregates and eventually the transition of the food from a liquid to a gel (gelation). The gels, composed of a variety of plant protein aggregates, would consequently exhibit a wide range of textures, stabilities and appearance, thus pointing to ideal processing conditions for the manufacture of food gels with desired properties.   

What the student will learn

The student will gain knowledge on the processes that modify the properties of proteins, a skill largely appreciated and highly on demand by the food industry these days. Also knowledge will be obtained on the use of sophisticated techniques: confocal laser scanning microscopy, light scattering (to measure the size of protein particles) and rheological (to measure the response of a food to stress) techniques.

The characteristics looked for in the candidate

The ideal candidate will be critical of the tasks they perform, with a motivation to learn and provide input to the team on the experimental areas that need improvement. Ideally, the  candidate will also have the ability and the enthusiasm to interact with several scientists to exchange ideas and opinions. 

More information

For more information please contact Stacy Pyett, or Carlos Mendez Velasco,