The amount of fat in the recipe changes the viscosity of ice cream – but how? In this data analysis exercise, you will find out how scientists determine the viscosity of ice cream and see how it varies with the ice cream’s fat content

Who doesn’t like ice cream especially on a hot summer’s day? Use the Education in Chemistry article Frozen delights to introduce students to the world of food science and the research that goes into serving up the perfect ice cream cone.

This data analysis exercise provides an opportunity for students to develop their disciplinary knowledge by looking at the work of US food scientists and their investigations into factors that affect ice cream viscosity. Viscosity is a measure of how easily something flows; the less viscous it is the more easily it flows. Scientists have been investigating how different additives affect the viscosity of ice cream since the 1930s. In a paper published in 1934, scientists described a new method they had developed for measuring the viscosity of ice cream – the sagging beam method of measurement.1

In this downloadable activity, learners will draw two graphs, describe trends in data and identify variables in a real-life experimental context. In question 1, learners will draw a straight line graph where the x-axis increases in increments of 1. This is accessible to most 11–14-year-olds, although some support may be needed with plotting the decimal numbers on the y-axis. More challenge is given in question 2, where the graph requires a smooth curve to be drawn and the x-axis increases in increments of 3. This means that the task may be differentiated by question according to the ability of the learners and the amount of challenge you would like to present.

Chemistry careers

If your learners are inspired by analysing the chemical properties of ice cream then show them there is a future in chemistry with these job profiles from the food chemistry industry: