Slow-Melting Ice Cream, Brought To You By Science


Ice cream cones are too often bittersweet. Mostly sweet, still, but I think we can all agree that the ice cream cone experience would be even more enjoyable if it wasn't a race against drips.

Scientists at the University of Edinburgh claim they have a solution for this sticky problem in a particular type of protein that slows melting. They found the protein, known as BslA, somewhere that some people might find unsavory: a species of bacteria called Bactillus subtilis.

As these bacteria grow and divide into a thin layer called a biofilm, the colony protects itself with a coating of BslA. The BslA coating protects the bacteria from the elements.

The researchers have published two non-ice-cream-related papers on how BslA works already, and in the process they realized that this protein can coat more than just bacteria. It can also coat oil droplets and air bubbles. Since air and fat happen to be two of the key components of ice cream, this got scientist Cait MacPhee thinking that BslA one might be suited for a sweeter job.

Ice cream, she explained in an email to The Washington Post, is basically "an oil + water (or sugar syrup) mixture, plus air bubbles, plus ice crystals (the solid). So if we add the protein it can protect all three, and keep the mixture stable."

In other words, it keeps the structural integrity of the ice cream – that mouthwatering balance of airiness and creaminess – intact. That means fewer drips, though it won't stop the ice cream from warming and becoming less refreshing.

MacPhee's team is still in the process of acquiring a patent for applying the protein to ice cream, so the ice cream-specific data remains under wraps for now. In the meantime, your ice cream cones will have to do the same.

Photo: Neil Conway | Flickr

Via: The Washington Post

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