Investigation of food microstructure and texture using atomic force microscopy: A review

Yadi Wen, Zekun Xu, Yi Liu, Harold Corke*, Zhongquan Sui

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


We review recent applications of atomic force microscopy (AFM) to characterize microstructural and textural properties of food materials. Based on interaction between probe and sample, AFM can image in three dimensions with nanoscale resolution especially in the vertical orientation. When the scanning probe is used as an indenter, mechanical features such as stiffness and elasticity can be analyzed. The linkage between structure and texture can thus be elucidated, providing the basis for many further future applications of AFM. Microstructure of simple systems such as polysaccharides, proteins, or lipids separately, as characterized by AFM, is discussed. Interaction of component mixtures gives rise to novel properties in complex food systems due to development of structure. AFM has been used to explore the morphological characteristics of such complexes and to investigate the effect of such characteristics on properties. Based on insights from such investigations, development of food products and manufacturing can be facilitated. Mechanical analysis is often carried out to evaluate the suitability of natural or artificial materials in food formulations. The textural properties of cellular tissues, food colloids, and biodegradable films can all be explored at nanometer scale, leading to the potential to connect texture to this fine structural level. More profound understanding of natural food materials will enable new classes of fabricated food products to be developed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2357-2379
Number of pages23
JournalComprehensive Reviews in Food Science and Food Safety
Issue number5
StatePublished - 1 Sep 2020


  • atomic force microscopy
  • food analysis
  • mechanical properties
  • microstructure
  • texture


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