Customer Spotlight

By Gerard van Dalen, Unilever R&D Vlaardingen (The Netherlands)

Unilever is the biggest combined global foods and home and personal care company in the world. One in every two households in the world  has a Unilever product in their home.

The mission of Unilever is to meet everyday needs for nutrition, home hygiene and personal care with brands that help people feel good, look good and get more out of life.

The portfolio includes global brands such as Lipton, Knorr, Dove and Omo, and local brands like Blue Band and Suave. Unilever is constantly enhancing their brands to deliver more intense, rewarding product experiences. Unilever invests €1 billion every year in cutting edge research and development, and has five laboratories around the world.

Unilever uses Avizo Software

Food and detergent products are composed of complex micro structures. With modern microscopic techniques we 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 visualize 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.

Surface rendering of a μCT image of detergent granules
Surface rendering of a μCT image of detergent granules (~1mm) containing cubicle particles (green).

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 visualization and image analysis. Image visualization reveals the actual 3-D structure, which is difficult to recognize from 2-D sections. Avizo software is used for image visualization. In our 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 software offers powerful tools for our 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 software are exported and analysed by other software packages.

Surface rendering of sandwiches with tomato

Surface rendering (before and after clipping) of MRI images of sandwiches with tomato, cheese, ham and lettuce after preparation (top) and after 24 hours (bottom) colors showing different components (box of 4.5*9.0*7.1cm3).

Unilever is the biggest combined global foods and home and personal care company in the world.

About Amira & Avizo 3D Software

Amira and Avizo are high-performance 3D software for visualizing, analyzing, and understanding scientific and industrial data coming from all types of sources and modalities.

Images and text are courtesy of  Unilever