We use cookies to improve your experience of our website. Privacy Policy

Skip to main content

Materials Research Institute



'A physicist’s dream or nightmare? The microstructure of ice cream: its importance, and how it is influenced by processing and storage' with Dr Bill Frith, Unilever


Date: 19 November 2019   Time: 13:00 - 14:00

It is my pleasure to host Dr Bill Frith from Unilever to talk about Industrial ice-cream making. The topic is how to make ice-cream on an industrial scale. It promises to be of interest to both a very broad audience, and to specialists who work with suspensions and emulsions.

Please find below the abstract and bio of the speaker.

A physicist’s dream or nightmare? The microstructure of ice cream: its importance, and how it is influenced by processing and storage.

Ice cream is an immensely complex material that presents unique challenges in terms of manufacturing and distribution. It comprises many phases in varying degrees of disequilibrium, the main ones being ice, air, oil/fat and aqueous solution(s). The texture, flavour and quality of the ice-cream is dependent on the microstructure of these phases, most of which will evolve over time during manufacture and storage. Particle networks are crucial in the determination of the texture of the product, with the ice-crystal network being most prominent, providing the initial firmness, whilst the fat droplet network contributes to aspects such as a creamy mouth-feel. The ice and air phases will also ripen and disproportionate, leading to texture degradation, and ultimately separation/collapse of the product. The process of microstructural evolution can be slowed by addition of stabilisers that structure the unfrozen phase, but a crucial role is also played by network formation of the fat and protein in solution.

In this talk I will give a brief overview of the microstructure of ice-cream and the various aspects that affect stability. I will then focus on the properties of the network forming components, including the ice crystal network, and how fat and protein networks can form, and the roles they play.

William J. Frith - Biography
I studied for my PhD at the University of Leuven in Belgium, investigating the rheology of non-aqueous suspensions under the supervision of Prof. Jan Mewis, graduating in 1986. After leaving university I joined ICI to work at the Corporate Colloid Science Group in Runcorn where I remained for seven years, in 1993 I joined Unilever R&D at Colworth House. My work at Unilever has focused primarily on the experimental materials science of concentrated suspensions, emulsions and biopolymer materials, with an emphasis on the physical chemistry and rheology of these materials and their application in food and personal care products. This has been driven by a need to understand the structure property relationships in biopolymer systems such as protein and polysaccharide gels and their mixtures, and of emulsions and similar structures.

In 2014 I joined the Refreshment Science & Technology group at Unilever Colworth, and now enjoy answering the question “and what do you do?” at parties by announcing myself as an ice-cream scientist.

Location:  Engineering Building, SEMS Seminar Room (3rd Floor), Mile End Campus
Contact:  Stoyan Smoukov, PhD