PhD in multiscale understanding of the dynamics of frying-induced water and oil transport in porous foods
The lab of Prof. Nicolai consists of a team of young, dynamic and enthusiastic researchers that investigate transport phenomena in relation to postharvest and agrofood processing. We offer a stimulating work environment for those who are interested in scientific research on the verge of fundamental and applied research, with a high relevance to making a more sustainable world. KULeuven is a world-class university that is ranked 47 on the Times Higher Education World University Rankings.
Complex heat, oil and water transfers occur during food frying. Concerns over the high caloric content of fried food bring about the challenge to minimize oil uptake during the process without compromising product quality. When more moisture evaporates during frying more oil is taken up by the food, respectively. You will build and validate a model describing the dynamics of frying-induced water loss and oil uptake in porous food matrices in relation to changes in their starch and protein components. To reach the project objectives, insights will be gained at molecular, microscopic and macroscopic scales. You will apply multiscale modelling for unravelling the role of starch and gluten in bringing about structural and textural properties of the fried products in relation to oil uptake. The resultant porous media transport and mechanics model of frying will then be validated and used to develop effective ingredient and process based strategies for lowering fried food fat content without
affecting its textural properties. Finally, the applicability of the modelling framework will be tested in the production of a fried potato flake based product. Particular developments in the project are:
- To understand the relation between microstructure, water evaporation and oil absorption, artificial and simplified food model systems are fabricated. Additive manufacturing techniques are used.
- X-ray nano-CT imaging will be applied to reveal the porous structures of the different model food systems as a function of frying temperature and time. Dynamic imaging (4D CT) of the fluid flow will be essential for understanding microscopic fluid flow as a step towards optimal design of frying processes.
- At the microscale, a pore network model for heat and mass transport in the porous structure is developed and coupled to a mechanics model to describe the non-linear (hyper)elasto-plastic behavior of material.
- At the macroscale, a solid mechanics and multiphase multicomponent porous media model will be applied.
The lab is looking for a highly motivated PhD candidate who is eager to become part of a highly visible international interdisciplinary team to perform cutting-edge research. You have a critical mind and you have good affinity with advanced image analysis, computer modelling and simulation. You are required to have a Master degree (or equivalent) in (bioscience) engineering, physics ormathematics. You will work closely with experts in food science that will study the transitions which starch and protein undergo during frying. Together you will unravel how frying wheat containing foods induces changes in their starch and protein components which affect both fat uptake and the structure and texture of the resultant food product.
The lab offers you a 4 year PhD position.The lab will support you in all aspects in order to successfully obtain a PhD degree and a proper scientific training. You will be given opportunities to participate at national and international meetings and collaborate with expertsin the field. Leuven is a small city in the heart of Europe close to Brussels with a rich historic background. With more than 40 000 students it provides a vibrant environment for both research and living.