Engineering Perfect Puffed Snacks

Tushar Gulati, Ashim Datta, Cornell University, USA

The production of puffed rice, like many other types of food, is incredibly complicated and involves multiple interconnected types of physics: mass transport, phase transitions, and plastic deformation. Professor Ashim Datta of Cornell University is leading a team to simulate the puffing of rice, treating it as a transport process in porous media with phase-dependent properties. Using a structural–thermal–CFD–RF coupling modeled in COMSOL Multiphysics®, they were able to construct a framework for determining optimal conditions for a variety of puffing processes.

The research team further extended their simulation practices to study food safety by building simulation applications based on their models. The apps are used as a teaching tool that enables multidisciplinary learning where students can simulate many what-if scenarios realistically.

Measured (top) and simulated (bottom) volume expansion of rice puffs during a 15-second puffing sequence.