French researchers have developed an artificial mechanical mouth, which can supposedly munch up food very similarly to how a human mouth does it. The device is intended to be used for testing various foods with regards to quality, and to also understand how flavors are influenced by the physical composition of the food.
The munching device mimics the first steps of digestion – chewing, saliva release and food breakdown. About five times the size of a human mouth inside, the steel container is kept at a steady 37°C by an electrical element. Its internal surfaces are coated with a chemically resistant plastic used for medical implants.
The ceiling and floor of the cylindrical chamber are attached to variable speed motors. Food is placed on the floor which is able to revolve, while the ceiling coated spiky “teeth” moves up and down like a plunger (see image, right).
The compression and rotation simulate the mechanical forces food undergoes in the mouth. The process is made more realistic by the addition of enzyme-containing artificial saliva through a pipe in the base of the chamber.
Helium supplied through another inlet flows through the “mouth” to reproduce the effect of breathing and carry volatile compounds away for analysis.