PSF group

Process Structure Functionality group

We adopt an interdisciplinary approach to observe and understand the links between the scales of behaviour, from the molecular properties of constituents to the macroscopic functionalities of food matrices, taking into account the overall performance of the transformation processes.








Our objectives

Our molecules of choice are proteins and we are also interested in their interactions with other types of molecules.

Our research focuses on :

  • molecular determinants and mechanisms of supramolecular assembly and phase separation ;
  •  The properties (interactions, osmotic pressure, reversibility, stability, sol-gel transition, etc.) of concentrated colloidal systems used in various unit operations such as filtration, concentration by evaporation or drying;
  • links between operating variables (process - product) and the performance of food processes;
  • optimisation of the design, control and sequence of unitary processing operations, and assessment of the corresponding environmental impacts.

 Our Strategy

Our generic and mechanistic research questions are enriched and fed by technological issues and are tackled by developing our studies at different scales, from the molecular to the macroscopic one, and by alternating model and real systems, so as to:

  • explore the main molecular and supramolecular mechanisms (interactions, assemblies, phase separation) behind the macroscopic behaviour of food proteins;
  • identify, quantify and model the physico-chemical mechanisms involved in the state transitions undergone by dairy matrices during concentration and 'deconcentration' operations;
  • decouple the unit operations of a dairy and cheese technological route in order to control and optimise the properties of these matrices;
  • develop approaches to help the design and the conception of processes using multi-criteria approaches;
  • capitalise on this knowledge, using a predictive approach, for processes that reconcile performance, environmental impacts and product quality.

Our expertise

The team's disciplinary skills are:

  • Process engineering
  • biochemistry and physical chemistry,
  • rheology
  • soft matter physics applied to food matrices,
  • dairy science and technology

Our team


Technicians/Assistant engineer : Françoise BOISSEL, Valérie BRIARD-BION, Jean-Jacques DUBOIS, Anne DOLIVET, Pascaline HAMON, Fabienne LAMBROUIN, Nadine LECONTE, Pascal LECOUILLARD, Arlette LEDUC

Engineer : Gilles GARRIC, Emeline GOUSSÉ, Fanny GUYOMARC’H, Mélanie MUNCH, Florence ROUSSEAU, Gaëlle TANGUY, Anny VIVAS-ABRIL


Fixed term contract/PhD students/Post-doc : Hossein GHOLAMIAN, Margot GROSTETE, Erik JUSTE, Manon PERRIGNON, Ali KERJOUH

Our projects

EU-FAIRCHAIN (2020-24): Towards a balanced distribution of value in the fruit, vegetable and dairy sectors. The project develops and implements technological, organisational and social innovations to increase the competitiveness of small and medium-sized actors in food value chains. The PSF team coordinates this project and is currently working on the development of an innovative drink based on fermented cheese whey. For more information, visit the project FAIRCHAIN website.

DIMEMPRO (2022-2025): Sizing strategy for optimising membrane process design. DIMEMPRO is a project funded by CARNOT QUALIMENT. It aims to develop a reasoned sizing methodology for membrane operations with a view to optimising the multi-criteria design of processes in the dairy sector.

FLait: Modelling the transmission of serum proteins during microfiltration of skimmed milk - Thesis co-funded by the INRAE-TRANSFORM department and the Brittany Region

STATPERF: A statistical approach to optimising business performance. This project studies the potential of artificial intelligence tools for optimising the overall performance (product quality, manufacturing yields, environmental impact, etc.) of the cheese-making process. Manon Perrignon's PhD. Funding: Institut Agro Fondation

TEX'AS: By what mechanisms do whey protein aggregates affect the coagulation properties of milk? This project studies the role of protein aggregates on the characteristics of milk gels and on gelling mechanisms. Erik Juste's PhD. Funding: CIFRE

ENTEVAP: Understanding the mechanisms of thermal fouling in falling-flow evaporators using a microfluidic and microscopic approach. The aim of the project is to put in place a miniaturisation strategy to characterise the constituents preferentially involved in the development of fouling, identify the process parameters with the most marked influence on the stages of deposit formation and, possibly, propose control methods to limit this phenomenon, which has very costly consequences for various sectors of food production. In this context, Margot Grostete's PhD, funded by ARED/TRANSFORM, focuses mainly on assessing the role of shear in the initiation and propagation of the phenomenon of milk protein deposition on surfaces with different properties (glass, steel) using rheometry and microfluidic tests coupled with microscopic observation.

ACCP3 : Competition between aggregation and complex coacervation phenomena in binary protein/polysaccharide/polyelectrolyte systems. In this PhD project, we are implementing a variety of oppositely charged (bio)macromolecules (colloids/polymers) in binary mixtures to better understand the kinetic and thermodynamic mechanisms that drive macroscopic phase separation either liquid-liquid (complex coacervation) or liquid-solid (aggregation). PhD supervised par D. Renard (INRAE BIA, Nantes) and co-funded by the INRAE-TRANSFORM department and the Pays de Loire Region




In this folder

The casein micelle
Cheese manufacture begins with a specific hydrolysis of one protein of milk, a casein, that is located at the surface of a macrostructure called the casein micelle. After the hydrolysis, the casein micelles aggregate and form a gel that is cut in pieces to induce whey release. The concentrated gel pieces are then put together to form a curd. As casein gel properties such as its firmness and its ability to drain are extensively dependent on the mineral composition of casein micelles, we have changed this composition and observed the effect on gel properties
bannière PSF-R28
Reducing consumption of animal-based protein in favor of plant-based protein in Western diets is a way to mitigate the pressure of our diet on the environment. However, consumers may find it challenging to re-balance their diet. In particular, milk substitution is difficult to some consumers, for nutritional and sensory reasons. New products that mix dairy- and plant-based components could be an opportunity to familiarize consumers with plant-based products characteristics without requiring nutritional expertise
Expert knowledge
Optimizing a food process, such as microfiltration of skim milk is complex due to the large number and heterogeneity of requested variables as well as the lack of knowledge about the physical laws involved. Our objective was to integrate expert knowledge in the description of the influence relations between the variables and optimisation objectives of microfiltration, when scientifically established relations do not exist.
Beamline setup
During the skim milk filtration, casein micelles accumulate at the membrane surface and form a cohesive and compressible gel, which reduces the filtration performance. Studying the properties of casein micelle deposit, i.e. its structure and reversibility, is thus of crucial significance. This was the aim of Floriane Doudiès’ PhD.
Multiobjective approach
The food industry urgently needs to design sustainability into its processes. We have developped, in collaboration with the ‘Laboratoire de Génie Chimique, LGC’ from Toulouse, a methodological framework for the ecodesign of food processes.
a drop of coacervates
Two or more proteins with opposite electric charges can co-assemble and form a separate dense phase called coacervates. Knowing the fundamental properties of this phase can help understanding the internal structure of coacervates and coacervation mechanisms and could also generate innovative applications
Foam structure
When proteins adsorb to the air–water interface, the magnitude of their charge affects the formation and properties of the adsorption layer. What about the sign of the charge ?
Essential oils (EOs) contributes to the growing number of applications of natural plants in livestock. Scientific data supporting the efficacy of EOs as anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and antioxidant molecules accumulates over time even if the cumulative evidence is not always sufficient.

Modification date: 07 December 2023 | Publication date: 25 October 2022 | By: stlo