Chocolate lovers, get excited. Physicists from Temple University have found a way to make chocolate healthier by literally zapping the fat right out of it.
Before chocolate is sold in those shiny pretty wrappers, it starts out in factories as a mix of particles of cocoa solids suspended in fat and oil. In order to keep the chocolate from getting stuck and jamming the pipes, cocoa butter becomes essential to keep the chocolate flowing.
Cocoa butter is a vital ingredient is most chocolate and is added to give chocolate that smooth velvety melt-in-your-mouth texture we all know and love. However, it significantly boosts fat levels in chocolate. Researchers and Mars Inc. teamed up to develop a way to help improve the viscosity of liquid chocolate without adding that extra cocoa butter.
Once Rongija Tao, who led the research, and his team came up with a successful method, they also realized that if they could make liquid chocolate flow better without adding that extra cocoa butter, they could also slash the fat in it by 20 percent.
Their method involves smart liquids, which are liquids whose properties, such as viscosity, can be transformed by applying an electric field. When shocked with electricity, they will thicken.
Most smart fluids are machine oils… but weirdly enough, chocolate somehow constitutes as a smart liquid too.
Ok, ready for the nerdy science behind this? Cocoa solids, the particles that make up chocolate, are circular. Alone, these circular particles get jammed together in the pipes. This is where the cocoa butter comes in to help get the solids moving again.
Tao and his team, however, figured out a different way to get the chocolate flowing again: electricity. A simple electric zap makes the cocoa solids flatten and start behaving like bar magnets, lining them up in long chains. This new formation keeps the chocolate moving smoothly through the pipes.
This new electrorheology promises that it will lead to a healthier chocolate. Reducing the cocoa butter in chocolate will lower the fat content which means fewer calories per bite (the perfect excuse to just eat more). In Tao’s study specifically, the fat content was slashed down to just 28 percent compared to the 30-40 percent that is found is regular chocolate.
Healthier, yeah. But does it taste just as good? According to Tao, this electric chocolate “has [a] wonderful taste.” I’m a little skeptical that this new healthier chocolate will taste as good as chocolate fudge, chocolate mouse, or a Hershey’s candy bar, but don’t knock it ’till you try it right?
This new electric zapped chocolate may even be coming to a store near you. Tao is said to be working with a “major chocolate company” to give his electric field technology a real world test run. Guess we’ll just have to go with the flow and wait to see what this new chocolate is really like.