The hunt for perfect mozzarella

The perfect pizza includes cheese that melts just the right way. Scientists at DTU are looking deep inside the structure of mozzarella to help fully understand why some batches are more standout stretchy and suitable for pizzas than others.

PhD student Pawel Pieta lays bare the microstructure of mozzarella using CT-scans. Photo: Bax Lindhardt

Less reliance on current test method

Work is on-going to create even better images of the directionality of the structure before correlating this information with data on how well the cheese performs. DTU has acquired a new type of CT-scanner, which is expected to slash the time it takes to scan the samples—and the resulting images are predicted to be much clearer.

After production runs, Arla currently test their mozzarella by making pizzas to check that the baked cheese has the right colour, taste and stretch. They use a machine to test the stretch, which removes human inconsistencies when doing the measurements.

The project partners expect less reliance on the stretch test by the end of the project as the new in-depth understanding will make it possible to implement early production steps that ensure the desired mozzarella.

This Arla machine tests the stretchability of the mozzarella cheese. Video: Arla Foods.

Other areas of application

Pawel Pieta says that learnings from this project will be applicable to other types of materials, which are anisotropic in nature: 

“Like the cooling chamber, many of our ideas relate to the cheese only. However, the image processing part of the work is expected to be very broad and can be applied to many different materials.”

Any fibre-based materials that have structures inside that need a closer look and characterization are potential candidates, such as blades for wind turbines, textiles, or insulation.

“If the material is made in a way that it should be able to withstand some force in one direction and not the other, 3D imaging may make us able to verify that there is anisotropy throughout this material. It can help confirm whether it was made well enough to withstand the force,” he explains.

“It would provide a deeper look. You can always do a stress test and check how much force a material will withstand, but that destroys the product. While it proves what you want to achieve, you still have no idea what is inside the material and why it does what it does. Hopefully using our method, we will be able to provide this why.”


The mozzarella has been scanned at DTU's 3D Imaging Centre, which houses state-of-the-art instruments. They can carry out scans which reveal the exterior and interior of an object at the same timewithout the objects having to be cut open

At the center you scan e.g. hard materials such as minerals and metals, which i.e. are relevant in relation to CO2 storage and to building steel structures such as wind turbines. The equipment is also used to scan organs, bones and plants in search of new products for the health sector, as well as to examine natural and cultural heritage items such as fossils and museum objects.

Among the more notable tasks, the center has e.g. helped the Natural History Museum scan a Tyrannosaurus Rex skull and made a CT X-ray of the prosthetic hand used by Paralympic table tennis player Peter Rosenmeier so he could have an exact replica made.

Find out more here: The 3D Imaging Centre, 3DIM