Space for dessert· All chefs know that preparing the perfect chocolate mousse is one part science and one part art. ESA's microgravity research is helping the food industry to understand the science behind the foams found in many types of food and drink, from coffee and meringues to marshmallows and beer. Foams are easier to study in weightlessness because the bubbles are evenly spread rather than the larger bubbles floating to the top. ESA has been investigating foams since the 1980s. Restriction use : CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 http://www.flickr.com/photos/fra1982/3028241802/ Image:
Creating the right type of foam on demand is tricky. Liquid flows downwards on Earth and foams are torn apart by gravity pulling on the bubbles.
ESA has been investigating foams since the 1980s. Our knowledge and knowhow caught the attention of food company Nestlé over 10 years ago.
"Gaining a better understanding of foam may help to improve the texture of our products," says Dr Cécile Gehin-Delval, a scientist at the Nestlé Research Centre.
"Stable foam in chocolate mousse gives the feeling of creaminess in the mouth. To make fine coffee froth, we want to create stable little bubbles to make it light and creamy."
Nestlé has researched the issue on ESA's parabolic aircraft flights, where they tested hardware and looked at milk protein for 20 seconds at a time during periods of weightlessness.
Now that researchers have proven their experiment hardware can make and analyse foams on parabolic flights, they are looking at continuing their study on the Space Station.
Unfortunately for the astronauts on the Space Station, scientists need only small quantities for testing. There is no chance they will be allowed to taste the results.