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Unilever employs software to visualise and understand food and detergent structures

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Unilever is using VSG's Avizo Fire 3D visualisation and analysis software to visualise and understand food and detergent structures.

Food and detergent products are composed of complex micro structures. Modern microscopic techniques can make them visible. The microstructure greatly affects macroscopic properties such as appearance, taste, mouth feel and solubility. Making these structures visible and quantifying them is essential to the development of products with optimal product properties. A broad range of imaging techniques is used to visualise microstructure elements at different length scales. For example, X-ray microtomography (μCT) is used to reveal the real 3D structure at μm-mm level and transmission electron microscopy (TEM) at nm levels.

To understand structure property relations it is important to know the interaction between structure elements and to obtain information about structural changes in time. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is used to analyse the structural changes in food and detergents during processing and storage. The internal 3D structure at sub mm level, the water distribution and status can be visualised in real time.

The information density of the images produced by these imaging techniques is very high and has to be converted to physical interpretable information. This can be done by multi-dimensional visualisation and image analysis. Image visualisation reveals the actual 3-D structure, which is difficult to recognise from 2-D sections. Avizo Fire is used for image visualisation. In this case, it runs on a 64-bit platform and is very powerful to handle large data sets. It provides a viewer with a real sense of the structure. Avizo Fire offers powerful tools for Unilever's applications, especially the interactive cropping tool and segmentation editor (e.g. for difficult-to-segment noisy MRI images). The 3-D models created by Avizo Fire are exported and analysed by other software packages.