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Title:
FUNCTIONAL DYNAMIC FOOD DISH
Document Type and Number:
WIPO Patent Application WO/2011/094827
Kind Code:
A1
Abstract:
The present invention relates generally to a food serving piece i.e. a table dish or foodware for containing, displaying or serving food, foodstuff and the like, which comprises at least one zone comprising an electrohydrodynamic transport element for transporting fluid food to the foodstuff present on the food serving piece (therefore called functional dynamic food dish). The present invention further relates to methods of such food serving piece use for changing the foodstuff (i.e. improving structure, texture or taste) after the foodstuff has been served, displayed or placed.

Inventors:
LAMMERTYN JEROEN (BE)
VERGAUWE NICOLAS (BE)
Application Number:
BE2011/000007
Publication Date:
August 11, 2011
Filing Date:
February 03, 2011
Export Citation:
Click for automatic bibliography generation   Help
Assignee:
UNIV LEUVEN KATH (BE)
LAMMERTYN JEROEN (BE)
VERGAUWE NICOLAS (BE)
International Classes:
A47J19/02; A47J43/00
Domestic Patent References:
WO2008028329A12008-03-13
Foreign References:
US20030086333A12003-05-08
US20030206807A12003-11-06
DE3335458A11985-12-19
Other References:
None
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
KATHOLIEKE UNIVERSITEIT LEUVEN (Minderbroedersstraat 8a - bus 5105, Leuven, BE)
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Claims:
FUNCTIONAL DYNAMIC FOOD DISH

Claims

What is claimed is:

L A food serving piece (1), comprising at least one electrohydrodynamic transport element for transporting food fluids.

2. The food serving piece (1) of any or according to any of the previous claims, characterised in that it is a food dish.

3. The food serving piece (1) of any or according to any of the previous claims, characterised in that it is a foodware.

4. The food serving piece (1) of any or according to any of the claims 1 to 3, characterised in that the electrohydrodynamic transport element is made of an electrowetting-based apparatus

5. The food serving piece (1) of claim 4, characterised in that electrowetting-based apparatus comprises electric conductive structures (i.e. electrodes (6) or (7)), some of the conductive structures at least in part underlying or being covered by a hydrophobic or superhydrophobic made surface of non conductive or less conductive material

6. The food serving piece (1) of claim 5, characterised in that it further comprises at least one electrode selector (12) for sequentially activating and de-activating one or more selected electrodes selectively activated and deactivated

7. The food serving piece (1) of any or according to any of the previous claims, characterised that the conductive structures can be selectively activated and deactivated by applying a voltage creating an electrical field at the non conductive or less conductive material surface for generating and/or moving food fluid bodies on said surface.

8. The food serving piece (1) of any or according to any of the previous claims, characterised in that its electrohydrodynamic transport element if energised generates droplets (5) of food fluid and moves said droplets (5) from or to a served food or foodstuff portion.

9. The food serving piece (1) of any or according to any of the previous claims, characterised in that the electrohydrodynamic transport element comprises fluid food tracks (4) build of or comprising an electrode array on which liquid food droplets (5) are generated and/or moved from-or-to a served food or foodstuff portion.

10. The food serving piece (1) of any or according to any of claim 9, characterised in that each track (4) is an area or zone without fixed channels.

11. The food serving piece (1) of the previous claim 9 or 10, further comprising at least one fluid reservoir (9) with an opening outlet into the proximity of a first electrode (6) of a food fluid track from which one or more droplets (5) can be generated onto the food fluid track (4).

12. The food serving piece (1) of any or according to any of the previous claims 9 to 11, characterised in that fluid food track (4) is arranged in a food fluid channel.

13. The food serving piece (1) of any or according to any of the previous claims 1 to 12, characterised in that the food serving piece (1) of any or according to any of the previous claims contains at least one first zone with electrohydrodynamic transport elements (dynamic zone (3)) for generating and/or transporting droplets (5) and at least one second zone for holding a major portion of food or foodstuff (functional zone (2)).

14. The food serving piece (1) of claim 13, characterised in that at least two distinct zones overlap in part, are adjacent to or separated from each other.

15. The food serving piece (1) of claim 13, characterised in that at least two distinct zones have a different altitude.

16. The food serving piece (1) of any or according to any of the previous claims 1 to 15, characterised in that it comprises power source or is connectable to a power source.

17. The food serving piece (1) of claim 16, characterised in that the power source of the food serving piece (1) is replaced with an electromagnetic inductor whereby the electromagnetic inductor is comprised a transformer device that transfers electrical energy from one circuit to another.

18. The food serving piece (1) of any or according to any of the previous claims 1 to 17, characterised in that it comprises electronic interconnects for an electronic interface for receiving or providing wired or wireless signals from or to a processor to allow monitoring or control of the electrohydrodynamic food fluid transport.

19. The food serving piece (1) of claim 18, characterised in that if further comprises an electrode selector.

20. The food serving piece (1) of any or according to any of the previous claims, characterised in that it comprises an electrohydrodynamic droplet dispenser

21. The food serving piece (1) of any or according to any of the previous claims, whereby one or more regions of the dynamic zone of the functional dynamic food dish are rendered permanently hydrophilic in order to deposit discrete amounts of food liquids after the food liquid has traversed the electronic transport track.

22. The food serving piece (1) according to claim 22, whereby said the al least one region has a dimension ranging from micrometres to millimetres.

23. The food serving piece (1) according to any of the claim 21 to 22, whereby said the al least one region has any one of the following shapes: circular, alike round shapes, rectangular or square shapes, triangular shapes, trapezoidal shapes, polygonal shapes .

24. An assembly comprising a food serving piece (1) as in any of the claims 1 to 23 and another member of the group consisting of under plate, a serving plate and dining furniture.

25. The assembly of claim 24, whereby the food serving piece (1) is detachable connected to the other member which has electronic interconnects for electronic connection with the food serving piece (1).

26. The assembly of any or according to any of the claim 24 or 25, whereby the other member has a power source or is connectable to a power source and an electronic interface for receiving or providing wired or wireless signals from or to a processor to allow monitoring or control of the electrohydrodynamic food fluid transport on the food serving piece (1).

27. The use of a food serving piece (1) with an electrohydrodynamic transport element of any or according to any of the previous claims to change a served food or foodstuff composition (e.g. a meal) served on a food serving piece (1).

28. The use of or according to claim 27, for a food or foodstuff that has been served to a mammalian customer for instance to a human.

29. The use as in or according to any of the previous claims 27 to 28 the to change the composition of a food portion or to functionalize in food portion by energizing an electronic transport element specifically for transporting food fluids

30. The use of or according to claim 29, whereby the energizing electronic transport element generates μΐ droplets of food fluid (5)

31. The use of or according to claim 29, whereby the energizing electronic transport element generates an electromagnetic field path

32. The use of or according to claim 29, whereby the electric field path generates food fluid droplets (5)

33. The use of or according to claim 29, whereby the electric field path moves food fluid droplets (5) along a desired or along a predestined path to a food portion

34. A method changing the composition or physic-chemical properties of served food or foodstuff with at least in part food fluids on a food serving piece (1), which food serving piece (1) comprises in part an hydrophobic insulation surface and underlying electrodes, whereby the method comprises energising some of the electrodes of the food serving piece (1) to render a hydrophobic surface temporally more hydrophilic so that one or more liquid food droplets (5) can be generated from a bulk liquid food and/or moved towards served food or foodstuff.

35. The method of or according to claim 34 whereby the composition and/or physico- chemical properties of food fluids on a food serving piece (1) is changed by mixing two or more food fluid droplets (5) together.

36. The method of any or according to any of the claims 34 or 35, whereby the meal is served on a table dish.

Description:
FUNCTIONAL DYNAMIC FOOD DISH

Background and Summary BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

A. Field of the Invention

The present invention relates generally to a food serving piece i.e. a table dish or foodware for containing, displaying or serving food, foodstuff and the like, which comprises at least one zone comprising an electrohydrodynamic transport element for transporting fluid food to the foodstuff present on the food serving piece (therefore called functional dynamic food dish). The present invention further relates to methods of such food serving piece use for changing the foodstuff (i.e. improving structure, texture or taste) after the foodstuff has been served, displayed or placed.

According to the present invention there is furthermore provided an ensemble whereto such food serving piece is comprised by being detachably connected to another component (for instance a serving plate, an under plate or a table).

It is an object of the present invention to provide a food serving piece (i.e. a food dish or a foodware) with a function to change in a controllable way without using utensils, such as a fork or a spoon, the composition or structure (i.e. the physic-chemical properties) of food or foodstuff that has been served or presented to a customer.

B. Description of the Related Art

Foodware, like food dishes, are useful in containing food or foodstuff and convenient for a costumer or waiter to carry the purchased food or foodstuff to the place of consumption. Furthermore, foodware are essential to present food or foodstuff in an artistic and tasty way in eating-houses. While in most eating-houses food dishes have such a practical function, in Michelin-star restaurants they are part of the dining experience. They are prepared with greatest care so every component of the food dish is in harmony with each other. Although the food dishes are indispensable and widely accepted, they suffer from two major drawbacks. First, preparing a food dish is a time consuming and labour intensive step. This is detrimental when food products have to be consumed in a short time span or have to be mixed in precise ratios to give exceptional taste combinations. Second, food fluids which are used as flavourings or visual attractiveness are disposed on the food dish according to the wishes of the cook. Therefore, they are not disposed according to the wishes of the customers who prefer other seasoning and/or colours.

Present invention provides a solution that a costumer can receive adaptation to its, his or her meal after it has been served or presented and without the costumer having to manipulate the meal with the usual utensils, such as for instance fork or spoon.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION The present invention relates generally to a food serving piece, i.e. a table dish, or a food dish, for containing, displaying or serving foodstuffs and the like, which food serving piece comprises an electrohydrodynamic transport element for transporting fluids (i.e. fluid food) across the surface of the food serving piece. Moreover it relates to an ensemble wherein a food serving piece is detachably connected, for instance to a table, an under plate or a serving plate, and whereby the food serving piece comprises one or more zones located throughout the food serving piece containing food or foodstuff, hereafter called food zones, further comprising at least one or more portions located throughout the food serving piece and potentially overlapping and/or bordering on one or more food zones comprising an electronic transport element, for transport of microlitre (μΐ) volumes or more of food fluids (preferably millimetre scale drops), hereafter called dynamic zones.

In one embodiment a food serving piece consists of an inner portion, which can be centrally located and serves as the food zone for food or foodstuff and further comprising a more peripheral portion for comprising the fluid food, whereby the more peripheral portion serves as the dynamic zone to transport food fluids to the inner portion. Such electrohydrodynamic transport element can be food movement chips or an electronic circuit which consists of conductive electrodes forming electrohydrodynamic tracks, which tracks are eventually open or closed channels or channel-free.

An alternative embodiment is a food serving piece, whereby the central portion comprises the dynamic zone with electronic circuit and with electrohydrodynamic transport tracks, for transporting fluid food (preferably microlitre (μΐ) volumes) towards the more peripheral portion which serves as the food zone. The electronic circuit comprises conductive electrodes and an electrode selector which is in contact or connectable to a power source. The tracks define a predestined path for transporting the fluid food. Such conductive structure or current carrying structures can have sizes ranging from 10 μηι to 10 mm. Moreover the food serving piece is connectable to a power source or it comprises a power source. It can further comprise electronic interconnects for an electronic interface for receiving or providing signals from or to a processor to allow monitoring or control the electrohydrodynamic food fluid transport. In a particular embodiment a table dish or such assembly which comprises the table dish can further comprise a power source such as a battery, which optionally can be reloaded. The battery can be comprised in the table dish or in the other element (i.e. table, serving plate or under plate) whereto the table dish can be detachably connected. In yet another particular embodiment a table dish or such assembly which comprises the table dish can further comprise an electric contact for connection to a power source. The electric contact can be comprised in the table dish or in the other element (i.e. table, serving plate or under plate) whereto the table dish can be detachably connected. The above described devices can further comprise electronic interconnects for an electronic interface for receiving or providing signals to a processor. In case of assembly this electronic interconnects can be comprised in any one of the elements of the assembly and/or between any of the elements of the assembly.

Yet another embodiment of present invention concerns the use of a food dish or a food ware, which when operational moves fluid food from a dynamic zone to a possibly overlapping or neighbouring food zone that contains a portion or portions of food or foodstuff, therefore the food dish or a food ware hereinafter also called functional dynamic food dish. The dynamics of the movement is according a predefined trajectory. A free movement can be actuated and such movement is programmable. Moreover the present invention concerns the use of the functional dynamic food dish to change a meal that has been served, in particular to change its fluid fraction, for instance by changing structure or the geometry of the food compositions; by mixing fluid foods which reacts (i.e. hardening); by mixing fluid foods with different viscosity; by mixing fluid foods which comprise chemicals or molecules that activate different sensory receptors in an animal or that induce a different action potential in such sensory receptor (i.e. temperature receptors, gustatory receptors), or by mixing fluid foods with a different physical property (i.e. vibrations of its atoms or temperature). This functional dynamic food dish used for present invention comprises at least one electrohydrodynamic transport element with electronic circuit and with electrohydrodynamic transport tracks (i.e. electrowetting-based mechanism) mounted on or incorporated in the body of this food dish or this food ware. The electrowetting-based mechanism for transporting the fluid food can be comprised in a separate zone (called the dynamic zone) than the zone for containing the corresponding food (food zone). Nevertheless the dynamic zone can contact the food zone or overlap with the food zone. In a more specific embodiment this food dish comprises further an electronic interface for receiving or providing signals to a processor. One of the objects of present invention is to provide a food serving piece i.e. a table dish or food ware with the dynamics of free movements of edible liquid products, hereafter called liquid food manipulations. The edible liquid products can take the shape of droplets which can have the size of microlitres. The free movement of the edible liquid products can be actuated. In a particular embodiment the transport frequency of such droplets is controllable.

The present invention further provides that the edible liquid manipulations are obtained by the implementation of electrowetting-based techniques. This actuation mechanism is based on asymmetrically changing the surface tension of the edible liquid products by applying voltages across electrodes embedded in a particular zone of the food dish, the dynamic zone of the food dish

In a preferred embodiment of present invention the food dish comprises at least two zones. A first zone, which is the dynamic zone holding or integrating an electrowetting-based actuation mechanism and which contacts, overlaps and/or surrounds a second zone, namely the food zone containing food or foodstuff. For instance the first zone, the dynamic, can be the utmost part of the plate and the second zone, the food zone, can be the inner part for containing or displaying foodstuff, such as solid foodstuff or other liquid foodstuff or combinations thereof. The order of these zones can eventually differ and optionally the first and second zones are surrounded by a third zone. For instance the food dish can have at least one recessed area or indentation with a central zone to hold a major portion of the foodstuff and an outer periphery to hold the actuation mechanism for transporting the edible liquids (i.e. the conductive structure or electronic circuit or food movement chips). An upraised exterior edge can form the at least one recessed area or indentation. But the food dish can also have an essentially flat surface, with at least one particular zone that holds or integrates an electrowetting-based actuation mechanism for transporting the edible liquids (dynamic zone) and with at least one second zone for holding, containing or displaying a major portion of the foodstuff (food zone). Such essentially flat plate or plate can furthermore comprise recessed reservoir areas to hold foodstuff fluids such as sauces, juices, or similar items and which recessed reservoir areas are adjacent to the dynamic zone to communicate liquids to the electrowetting-based actuation mechanism of the dynamic zone for transporting the edible liquids.

In a particular embodiment at least one zone that comprise the electrohydrodynamic structure (actuation mechanism) for generating food fluid and/or transporting food fluid droplets (dynamic zone) optionally has different altitudes on a food dish or food ware than other portions of the food dish or food ware, in this having a slope at the edge of the this zone. In particular the food zone and dynamic zone may differ in altitude. For instance, one or more food zones are situated lower than one or more dynamic zones which hold an actuation mechanism for transporting the food fluid over the edge or border of said dynamic zone lower situated food zones so that the food fluid is further transported by gravity. When reaching the border of the recessed area of the food zones, food fluid is further transported by gravity. The order of these two zones can eventually differ whereby one or more dynamic zones are in a recessed area and a food zone is on the overlapping or bordering sloped area or on a higher altitude. By using the electrowetting-based mechanism present in the dynamic zone, edible liquids can be transported across the sloped area against the gravity towards the food zones.

In the above described embodiments the electrowetting-based actuation mechanism, responsible for the liquid food manipulations, is present in the dynamic zone. By this mechanism, the liquid food products can be moved freely over a pre-programmable path which can be reconfigured accordingly.

A food dish or food ware of present invention can thus comprise a substantially flat plate or has substantially central flat area, comprising particular dynamic zones (or one dynamic zone) that hold or integrate an electrowetting-based actuation apparatus for transporting the edible liquids whereby the electrowetting-based actuation apparatus comprises a conductive structure or electrodes (which form the electronic transport tracks) connected to an electrode selector and which is isolated from the edible liquids by an insulating hydrophobic or superhydrophobic layer which is generally formed by a dielectric material and a hydrophobic or superhydrophobic material. The electrohydrodynamic transport tracks are responsible for transportation of liquid food to particular food zones (or one food zone) for holding, containing or displaying a major portion of the foodstuff. When operational the dynamic zones transport edible liquids to the food zones which comprise major portions of the food or foodstuff and thereby altering the composition of the food or foodstuff. Such food dish or food ware can furthermore comprise recessed reservoir areas to hold food fluids (i.e. water with solved foodstuff, sauces, juices, or similar items), which recessed reservoir areas that are adjacent to the dynamic zone to communicate liquids to the electronic transport tracks of the dynamic zone for transporting the edible liquids. On each such dynamic zone an electrowetting-based actuation mechanism responsible for the liquid food manipulations is present. By this mechanism, the liquid food products can be actuated to move freely over a pre-programmable path which can be reconfigured accordingly. The electrohydrodynamic transport tracks can optionally be only part of the dynamic zones. In such case when fluid food is transported to another zone that holds one or more food or foodstuff (the food zone) a reactive area is created at the edge of this food zone. Another option is that the electrohydrodynamic tracks comprise closed channels embedded in the food dish or in a layer on the food dish, whereby the channels are in part under at least one of food zones and whereby these channels open in an area of at least one food zone. In this way a larger portion of such food zone can be reached by edible liquids and thereby forming a larger reaction area. Still another option is that the electronic tracks comprise closed channels embedded in the food dish or in a layer on the food dish whereby the channels are completely under at least one of the food zones and whereby these channels open in an area outside of any food zone. By this means, the edible liquids can be transported traversing at least one of the food zones without forming a reactive area with the food or foodstuff on the food zone. However in yet another embodiment the food dish is an essentially flat plate, with particular zones that hold or integrate an electrowetting-based actuation mechanism for transporting the edible liquids (i.e. the conductive structure or electronic circuit connected to electrohydrodynamic transport tracks for transporting the edible liquids) and with particular zones for holding, containing or displaying a major portion of the foodstuff. Such essentially flat plate can furthermore comprise recessed reservoir areas to hold foodstuff fluids such as sauces, juices, or similar items which recessed reservoir areas that are adjacent to the dynamic zone to communicate liquids to the electronic transport tracks of the dynamic zone for transporting the edible liquids. At least one conductive structure or electronic circuit connected to electrohydrodynamic transport tracks is present which is responsible for the liquid food manipulations. By this mechanism, the liquid food products can be moved freely over a pre-programmable path which can be reconfigured accordingly.

Another particular embodiment of present invention is thus a food dish or food ware with at least one basis component to hold major portions of the foodstuff and at least one another component comprising an electronic circuit connected to electrohydrodynamic transport tracks, which tracks extend towards the basis component to hold major portions of the foodstuff. Optionally this food dish or food ware further comprises recessed reservoir area to hold edible fluids or watery fluids that carry foodstuff or to hold food fluids such as sauces, juices, or similar items. These reservoirs are connected and communicate with the electrohydrodynamic transport tracks. Several liquid food manipulations are possible on the dynamic zone or interface of the reservoirs with the dynamic zone of the functional dynamic food dish. These manipulations are, for example, transportation of the fluid food from one region of the food dish to another, generation of fluid food droplets from a larger amount of fluid food, mixing of two or more different fluid food droplets, colliding of the fluid food with larger parts of immobile food already present on the plate and the like. Therefore we optionally called such food serving piece a "dynamic food dish" or a "functional dynamic food dish in this application. In still another embodiment, the food dish or food ware comprises one or more reservoir areas worked into the food serving piece that are accessible by reservoir inlets. Further, these reservoirs are part of the dynamic zone by the presence of one or more conductive structures (e.g. electrodes) on the bottom of the reservoirs. These conductive structures are part of the electrowetting apparatus and are isolated by a dielectric hydrophobic layer. The reservoirs are connected to communicate with the rest of the dynamic zone and its electronic transport tracks by means of, but are not limited to, open or closed channels. The function of the reservoirs is to hold and possibly store food fluid such as edible fluids, watery fluids, fluids such as sauces, juices, or similar items. If the food dish or food ware is operational from these reservoirs, the bulk food fluid is fragmented or discretized into a series of droplets of uniform size onto the functional dynamic food dish by inducing and controlling electrowetting phenomena. The liquid is subsequently conveyed across the structure as a train of droplets which are eventually recombined to form new or existing food products or to form different shapes or structures or are collided to immobile food products lying on the functional dynamic food dish.

In yet another embodiment, one or more regions of the dynamic zone of the functional dynamic food dish are rendered permanently hydrophilic in order to deposit discrete amounts of food liquids after the food liquid has traversed the electronic transport track. These regions can have different shapes such as circular or alike round shapes, rectangular or square shapes, triangular shapes, trapezoidal shapes, polygonal shapes (i.e. hexagonal in shape, heptagonal in shape, octagonal in shape, octagonal in shape, pentagonal in shape) or alike shapes. The regions can have dimensions ranging from micrometres to millimetres. The use of at least one dynamic zone on the functional dynamic food dish offers several advantages over the conventional food dishes. First, fluid food portions when actuated move independently across the functional dynamic food dish without external intervention. Second, the fluid foods follow a pre-defined path which can be configured according to the desires of the user. Third, precise delivery of fluid food products to predefined spots )n^he " functional dynamic food dish is possible without any external intervention.

Furthermore, the present invention provides a way of forming different shapes and structures with the liquid food by using a succession of different liquid food manipulations. Another aspect of the invention is the possibility of preparing new food products by combining the liquid food products (or edible liquids) together and/or with the food or foodstuff present on the food zone of the functional dynamic food dish. This may comprise, but is not limited to, chemical modification of several liquid food components which causes different appreciations on sensory and taste receptors, smoking of different immobile food products by altering the physic-chemical properties of the liquid food components and the like.

In still another aspect of the invention the intensity of sensory appreciation of food or foodstuff lying on the functional dynamic food dish can be chosen accordingly to the wishes of the consumer by manipulating the right amount of liquid food. These manipulations can be pre-programmed or changed during the consumption of the meal.

In the above described embodiments the food serving piece (food dish or the food ware) may be ergonomic in different shapes such in circular or alike round shapes for instance with a curving border, rectangular or square in shape, triangular in shape, trapezoidal in shape, polygonal in shape (i.e. hexagonal in shape, heptagonal in shape, octagonal in shape, octagonal in shape, pentagonal in shape) or alike shapes. The food serving piece is for instance in the form of an oval-shaped plate. The food dish can also being formed from a base member, said base member having an upraised exterior edge, said base member with said upraised exterior edge forming at least a first food compartment. The term food dish or food ware is herein after not limited by a dish shape. The food serving piece can be a conventional table dish with this difference that is provided with an electrowetting-based actuation mechanism for transporting the edible liquids to foodstuff portions.

A food dish (1) according to an embodiment of present invention has a central recessed food supporting surface (3) surrounded by outwardly extending verge area (2) to a rim (xxxx) which extend outwardly terminating in an outer diameter edge (xxx). The verge area can slightly upwardly extend or remain at the same altitude as the central recessed food supporting surface and the verge area may or may not comprise liquid holding reservoirs. The rim may be angled in a parallel plane of the recessed central surface or downwardly and inwardly towards the recessed central surface. But other food dishes may also be employed, such as a platter, a bowl, a cutting board, a cake server, a butter dish, a gravy boat, a bowl, and/or the like. Such food dish (1) includes a central portion (3) for placing food and/or other items thereon and a more peripheral portion (2) for comprising the fluid foodstuff and eventually a third outer peripheral portion that extends outwardly from at least a portion of the peripheral portion (2). The food serving piece or food dish (1) is in another embodiment in the form of a rectangular plate. Such food serving piece (1) also includes a central portion (3) for placing food and/or other items thereon and a more peripheral portion (2) for comprising the fluid foodstuff and eventually a third outer peripheral portion that extends outwardly from at least a portion of the peripheral portion (2).

Furthermore such food dish can be being partitioned forming multiple compartments. Furthermore such food dish may have a tab serving as rigid stabilizing handle. This food dish provided with a electrowetting-based actuation mechanism for transporting the edible liquids from the a more extended verge area to a foodstuff portion on the central recessed food supporting surface or to transport liquids comprised in a foodstuff portion is a functional dynamic food dish that distinguishes with essential technical features and functions from the food dishes of the art.

Optionally the functional dynamic food dish is combined with an under plate, when containing, serving or displaying the food or foodstuff. Such functional dynamic food dish may part of a food ensemble by that it is detachably connected to such under plate for instance by an electronic interface. The two platters can be inter nested or stack, so that they appear as one unit. Optionally the under plate comprises the power source that is connectable with the conductive structure on or in the functional dynamic food dish. Such functional dynamic food dish may be detachably connected to a food serving tray, which food serving tray comprises a power source or is connectable to a power source or which food serving tray is wired or wireless communicating with a processor.

The food dish or an assembly can be made of a material that is selected from the group consisting of a ceramics material, plastic, pottery, stoneware, earthenware and china or combinations thereof or any other suitable material. In present invention such food dish comprises non conductive materials and with conductive structures for instance for the electrowetting-based actuation mechanism. A ceramic is understood as meaning clay ceramic, a porcelain or a steatite. For instance a ceramic is a suitable material for food dishes and in particular for this invention wherein a food dish comprises electricity conductive materials (conductors) and electricity insulating materials (insulators). A ceramic is distinguished by high dimensional stability, great hardness and mechanical strength, by a high electrical insulating capability, by advantageous dielectric behaviour, by a great corrosion resistance as a result of high resistance to chemical influences and by a great resistance to heat and effects of the weather. The ceramic is produced from the starting materials kaolin, quartz, clay, alumina and/or feldspar by mixing the same while adding various substances in a subsequent firing or sintering operation. Insulating material layer can for instance be made of such material as ceramics, Si02, Si3N4, A1203, or other insulating materials. The conductive materials may be tungsten, aluminium, copper, gold, nickel, chrome, platinum, palladium, or combinations of conductors such as chrome-copper-gold. Present invention concerns a food serving piece (e.g. a foodware or a table dish), comprising at least one electrohydrodynamic transport element for transporting food fluids. This food serving piece can be characterised in that the electrohydrodynamic transport element is made of an electrowetting-based apparatus. A useful electrowetting-based apparatus is an electrowetting-based apparatus comprises electric conductive structures (i.e. electrodes), some of the conductive structures at least in part underlying or being covered by a hydrophobic or superhydrophobic made surface of non conductive or less conductive material. Suitable material for the hydrophobic insulation surface are amorphous fluoropolymers. Other suitable materials for the hydrophobic insulation surface are materials of the group consisting of Fluoropel hydrophobic polymers, superhydrophobic V-series polymers and Teflon AF. The material for covering the conductive structures can also be a dielectric material of the group consisting of porcelain, glass, polytetrafluorethylene, parylene and plastics. Or such dielectric material can be piezoelectric material of the group consisting of sodium potassium niobate (NaKNb), Bismuth ferrite (BiFe03), Sodium niobate NaNb03and the polymer Polyvinylidene fluoride (PVDF). The food serving piece can further comprise is a translucent plate with material of the group consisting of a glass, plastics, a polycarbonate, acrylate (Plexiglas), a polyethylene, a polypropylene, a poly-4-methylpentene-l and a delrin.

Further scope of applicability of the present invention will become apparent from the detailed description given hereinafter. However, it should be understood that the detailed description and specific examples, while indicating preferred embodiments of the invention, are given by way of illustration only, since various changes and modifications within the spirit and scope of the invention will become apparent to those skilled in the art from this detailed description. It is to be understood that both the foregoing general description and the following detailed description are exemplary and explanatory only and are not restrictive of the invention, as claimed.

Some embodiments of the invention are set forth directly below: A particular embodiment of present invention concerns a food serving piece, comprising at least one electrohydrodynamic transport element for transporting food fluids. The food serving piece can be a food dish or a foodware. In a particular embodiment the electrohydrodynamic transport element is made of an electrowetting-based apparatus and more particularly such food serving piece can be characterised in that electrowetting-based apparatus comprises electric conductive structures (i.e. electrodes), some of the conductive structures at least in part underlying a hydrophobic or superhydrophobic made surface of non conductive or less conductive material And yet more specific the food serving piece of embodiment 5, characterised in that it further comprises at least one electrode selector for sequentially activating and de-activating one or more selected electrodes selectively activated and deactivated. In these previous embodiments the food serving piece can be characterised that the conductive structures can be selectively activated and deactivated by applying a voltage creating an electrical field at the non conductive or less conductive material surface for generating and/or moving food fluid bodies on said surface. Moreover in the previous embodiments the food serving piece can be characterised in that its electrohydrodynamic transport element if energised generates droplets of food fluid and moves said droplets from or to a served food or foodstuff portion. In yet another more specific embodiment the food serving piece of any of the previous embodiments is characterised in that the electrohydrodynamic transport element comprises fluid food tracks build of or comprising an electrode arrays on which liquid food droplets are generated and/or moved from-or-to a served food or foodstuff portion and furthermore each such track can be an area or zone without fixed channels.

The food serving piece (1) of any or according to any of the previous embodiments which is characterised in that the electrohydrodynamic transport element comprises fluid food tracks (4) build of or comprising an electrode array on which liquid food droplets (5) are generated and/or moved from-or-to a served food or foodstuff portion and which can be characterised in that each track (4) is an area or zone without fixed channels can further comprising at least one fluid reservoir with an opening outlet into the proximity of a first electrode (6) of a food fluid track from which one or more droplets can be generated onto the food fluid track. Optionally that the fluid food track is arranged in a food fluid channel.

In another embodiments the food serving piece of any of the previous embodiments that is , characterised in that it comprises or contains at least one first zone with electrohydrodynamic transport elements (dynamic zone) for generating and/or transporting droplets and at least one second zone for holding a major portion of food or foodstuff (functional zone). This food serving piece can be further characterised in that at least two distinct zones overlap in part, are adjacent to or separated from each other or it can be characterised in that at least two distinct zones have a different altitude. In yet another embodiments the food serving piece of any of the previous embodiments is characterised in that it comprises power source or is connectable to a power source. This food serving piece can be further characterised in that the power source of the food serving piece is replaced with an electromagnetic inductor whereby the electromagnetic inductor is comprised a transformer device that transfers electrical energy from one circuit to another.

In yet another embodiments the food serving piece of any of the previous embodiments is characterised in that it comprises electronic interconnects for an electronic interface for receiving or providing wired or wireless signals from or to a processor to allow monitoring or control of the electrohydrodynamic food fluid transport. This food serving piece can further comprises an electrode selector.

The food serving piece of any of the previous embodiments can be further characterised in that it comprises an electrohydrodynamic droplet dispenser.

Yet another embodiment of present invention concerns an assembly comprising a food serving piece according to any of the previous embodiments and another member of the group consisting of under plate, a serving plate and dining furniture. Hereby the food serving piece can be detachable connected to the other member which has electronic interconnects for electronic connection with the food serving piece. Furthermore the other member can have a power source or can be connectable to a power source and an electronic interface for receiving or providing wired or wireless signals from or to a processor to allow monitoring or control of the electrohydrodynamic food fluid transport on the food serving piece.

Another embodiment is the use use of a food serving piece with an electrohydrodynamic transport element of any of the previous embodiments to change a served food or foodstuff composition (e.g. a meal) served on a food serving piece. This use can be for a food or foodstuff that has been served to an animal customer for instance to a human. More over this use here above described can be to change the composition of a food portion or to functionalize in food portion by energizing an electronic transport element specifically for transporting food fluids. This is obtainable by the energizing electronic transport element which generates μΐ droplets of food fluids, for instance by generating an electromagnetic field path, Whereby the electric field path generates food fluid droplets from fluid food and/or whereby the electric field path moves food fluid droplets along a desired or along a predestined path to a food portion.

Yet another embodiment of present invention concerns a method changing the composition or physic-chemical properties of served food or foodstuff with at least in part food fluids on a food serving piece, which food serving piece comprises in part an hydrophobic insulation surface and underlying electrodes, whereby the method comprises energising some of the electrodes of the food serving piece to render a hydrophobic surface temporally more hydrophilic so that one or more liquid food droplets can be generated from a bulk liquid food and/or moved towards served food or foodstuff. Optionally the composition and/or physico- chemical properties of food fluids on a food serving piece is changed by mixing two or more food fluid droplets together. These methods further can comprise serving the meal on a table dish. In another embodiment, the food dish or food ware comprises one or more reservoirs into which cooperating refill unit for instance cooperating cartridges of food fluids such as sauces, juices, or similar items can be engaged for instance via a plug to plug in a food fluid cooperating refill unit to release food flood in said the food reservoir. These reservoirs are part of the dynamic zone by the presence of one or more conductive structures (e.g. electrodes) isolated by a dielectric hydrophobic layer on the bottom of the reservoirs. If the food dish or food ware is operational from these reservoirs, the bulk food fluid is fragmented or discretized into a series of droplets of uniform size onto the functional dynamic food dish by inducing and controlling electrowetting phenomena. This embodiment can further comprise the food dish or food ware in combination with its refill unit for instance the food fluid cooperating cartridge or its refill unit or food fluid cooperating cartridges for instance in a kit or in a condition whereby at least one refill unit for instance food fluid cooperating cartridge is detachable connected.

Detailed Description

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF EMBODIMENTS OF THE INVENTION

The following detailed description of the invention refers to the accompanying drawings. The same reference numbers in different drawings identify the same or similar elements. Also, the following detailed description does not limit the invention. Definitions

A "food serving piece" in the meaning of present application is a receptacle for containing, displaying or serving food or foodstuffs and comprises 1) foodware and 2) tableware such as a table dish or food dish (i.e. plate, bowl, platter etc ..) or the like that is especially designed for containing, displaying or serving food (in this application called "food dish" or "table dish") When referring to "foodware" it is intended to include devices associated with the presentation, storage, utilization or consumption of food. Foodware can further include dishware, utensils, containers, and ancillary devices used with such entities, such as an under plate to support a plate or a cup holder to support a cup. Of particular interest are plates, which can be used for presenting food, particularly with conventional or active utensils and drinking receptacles, for preparing food, for stimulating the appetite and the like.

"Food" in the meaning of this application comprises foodstuff. "Foodstuff is in the meaning of edible components that can save be consumed by an animal including a human it is for instance an edible component of the group consisting of artificial sweetening agents, table salts, dietetic salt substitutes, soya sauce, salad dressings; mayonnaise; ketchup, colouring or decolouring of foods, edible extracts or preparations of fungi, dietetic products, edible milk, any food additives, edible vitamins, edible inorganic salts, minerals, trace elements, edible amino acids, peptides or proteins, dietary fibres, edible meat products; meat extracts, egg products, food -from-the-sea products; fish products; Fish meal; fish-egg substitutes, fish extracts, fish eggs, i.e. caviar, fish-egg substitutes, shell fish; molluscs, edible seaweed, soups; sauces, soup concentrates, sauce concentrates, non-alcoholic beverages; dry compositions or concentrates thereof; fruit or vegetable juices, flavouring or bittering agents, colouring agents, sweeteners, clouding agents; agents to improve the cloud-stability, volatile aromatic ingredients, proteins and acidifying substances .

"Fluid fluid" is in the meaning of this application edible liquids or edible liquids that comprise food or foodstuff for instance in solutions or as suspended particulates or in emulsions. A food fluid can simply be drinking water. But such drinking water can also comprise edible food reactive molecules. "Upper site of the food dish" is in the meaning of this application is the site which comprises the space or zone (2) for containing a corresponding food (3) opposite of the site that is for contacting a carrying surface for instance a table.

The term "comprising" is meant not to be limiting to any subsequently stated elements but rather to encompass non-specified elements of major or minor functional importance. In other words the listed steps, elements or options need not be exhaustive. Whenever the words "including" or "having" are used, these terms are meant to be equivalent to "comprising" as defined above.

The term "Electrohydrodynamic", derived from electrohydrodynamics, and in this application in concerns the dynamics of electrically charged fluids. It is the study of the motions of ionized particles or molecules and their interactions with electric fields and the surrounding fluid. In this application the term "Electrohydrodynamic"means the following types of particle and fluid transport mechanisms: electrophoresis, dielectrophoresis, electro-osmosis, electrowetting or other fluid transport mechanisms where in the electric field or the dynamics of electrically charged fluids is the driving force. Electrowetting and electrowetting-on- dielectric are used interchangeably. "Electrohydrodynamic transport tracks" or "electronic transport tracks" in the meaning of this application are transport tracks wherein the drivers are conductive structures or electrodes organized in arrays or combinations of multiple arrays partly being part of the electrowetting- based apparatus and which conductive structures can be covered by insulators or by a less conductive material or it are transport tracks that drive fluids based on the electrohydrodynamic

According to one embodiment of the present invention, the dynamic zone for liquid food manipulations comprises a substrate surface, an array or multiple arrays of electrodes disposed on the substrate surface, a dielectric layer disposed on the substrate surface, a hydrophobic or superhydrophobic layer applied on the dielectric layer and an electrode selector. The dielectric layer is disposed on the substrate surface and is patterned to cover the electrodes. The electrode selector can be provided as a microprocessor or other suitable component for sequentially activating and de-activating one or more selected electrodes of the array or matrix to sequentially bias the selected electrodes to an actuation voltage. The sequencing performed by the electrode selector enables a droplet disposed on the substrate surface to move along a desired path that is defined by the selected electrodes.

According to yet another method of the present invention, a droplet is actuated by providing the droplet on a surface comprising an array of electrodes. The droplet is initially disposed on a first one of the electrodes and at least partially overlaps a second one of the electrodes that is separated from the first electrode (6) by a first gap. The first electrode is biased to a first voltage and the second electrode is biased to a second voltage lower than the first voltage. In this manner, the droplet becomes centred on the first gap. A third one of the electrodes that is proximate to the first and second electrodes is biased to a third voltage that is higher than the second voltage to spread the droplet onto the third electrode. The bias on the first electrode is then removed to move the droplet away from the first electrode. The droplet then becomes centred on a second gap between the second and third electrodes. According to one method of the present invention, a droplet is actuated by providing the droplet on a surface that comprises an array of electrodes. The droplet is disposed on a first one of the electrodes, and at least partially overlaps a second one of the electrodes. The second electrode is activated to move the droplet from the first electrode to the second electrode.

According to one aspect of this method, the second electrode is adjacent to the first electrode along a first direction. In addition, the electrode array comprises one or more additional electrodes adjacent to the first electrode along one or more additional directions. The droplet at least partially overlaps these additional electrodes as well as the second electrode. In accordance with this aspect of the method, the first direction that includes the first electrode and the second electrode is selected as a desired direction along which the droplet is to move. The second electrode is selected for activation based on the selection of the first direction.

Droplets can be combined together by transporting them simultaneously onto the same electrode. Droplets are subsequently mixed either passively or actively. Droplets are mixed passively by diffusion. Droplets are mixed actively by moving or "shaking" the combined droplet by taking advantage of the electrowetting phenomenon across two or more electrodes of the electrode array. The actuation of the droplet creates turbulent non-reversible flow, or creates dispersed multilaminates to enhance mixing via diffusion. In yet another method of the present invention, two or more droplets are merged into one droplet. First and second droplets are provided on a surface comprising an array of electrodes. The electrode array comprises at least three electrodes comprising a first outer electrode, a medial electrode adjacent to the first outer electrode, and a second outer electrode adjacent to the medial electrode. The first droplet is disposed on the first outer electrode and at least partially overlaps the medial electrode. The second droplet is disposed on the second outer electrode and at least partially overlaps the medial electrode. One of the three electrodes is selected as a destination electrode. Two or more of the three electrodes are selected for sequential activation and de-activation, based on the selection of the destination electrode. The electrodes selected for sequencing are sequentially activated and de-activated to move one of the first and second droplets toward the other droplet, or both of the first and second droplets toward each other. The first and second droplets merge together to form a combined droplet on the destination electrode.

In yet another method of the present invention, one or more droplets are dispensed from a reservoir containing a bulk mass of liquid food. This method includes: (i) providing a path of electrodes in proximity to the bulk liquid food; (ii) activating electrodes in the path of electrodes to form the bulk liquid food into a slug arranged along the path of electrodes and transport the slug along the path of electrodes; and (iii) selectively deactivating electrodes in the path of electrodes at a trailing end of the slug and simultaneously activating electrodes located under the bulk mass of liquid to pinch off one or more sub-droplets from the trailing end of the slug. In another embodiment the method of the present invention, concerns deposition of small amounts of food liquids on the surface of the food dish by locally modifying the surface of the electrode transport track, for instance modifying by changing the surface face tension properties of the transport track from (super)hydrophobic to (super)hydrophilic. After food liquid droplets have moved by electrowetting means across the modified surface, a determined amount of liquid is left behind on the modified surface.

It is therefore an object of the present invention to supply food dishes, foodware and/or tableware with an electrowetting-based actuation mechanism to freely move liquid food products. It is another object of the present invention to implement and control liquid food manipulations such as transportation, mixing, dispensing and the like by taking the shape of droplets.

The food serving pieces of present invention as described in the various embodiments can further comprise a droplet dispenser, preferably an electrohydrodynamic droplet dispenser, for dispensing food fluid droplets. For instance an electrohydrodynamic droplet dispenser comprises a reservoir containing a bulk mass of food liquid whereby the bulk liquid is contained within a space between two parallel plates, whereof one plate contains etched drive electrodes on its surface while the other plate contains either etched electrodes or a single, continuous plane electrode that is grounded or set to a reference potential. In such droplet dispenser hydrophobic insulation covers the electrodes. It is thus still another method of the present invention, one or more droplets are dispensed from a reservoir containing a bulk mass of liquid food whereby the bulk liquid is contained within a space between two parallel plates. One plate contains etched drive electrodes on its surface while the other plate contains either etched electrodes or a single, continuous plane electrode that is grounded or set to a reference potential. Hydrophobic insulation covers the electrodes and an electric field is generated between electrodes on opposing plates. Furthermore, this method includes: (i) providing a path of driving electrodes in proximity to the bulk liquid food; (ii) activating electrodes in the path of electrodes to form the bulk liquid food into a slug arranged along the path of electrodes and transport the slug along the path of electrodes; and (iii) selectively deactivating electrodes in the path of electrodes at a trailing end of the slug and simultaneously activating electrodes located under the bulk mass of liquid to pinch off one or more sub-droplets from the trailing end of the slug.

The purpose of this invention is also to entertain the users/diner. Some of the other objects of the invention having been stated hereinabove; other objects will become evident as the description proceeds when taken in connection with the accompanying drawings as best described herein below.

The food serving piece comprises a power source or means for receiving power, devices for producing signals to the dynamic zone of the functional dynamic food dish and also devices for sensing and/or receiving signals. The food serving piece may include the electrowetting- based device or be associated with an apparatus compatible with the food serving piece and serving to fulfil at least a portion of the electrowetting-based mechanism. The food serving piece and/or associated apparatus will also include the circuitry to control the devices and perform the various activities provided by the food dish and associated apparatus.

In a particular embodiment, one may provide electronic interconnects on the bottom layer of the functional dynamic food dish which can be connected with receptacles on dining furniture. By this means power, signals and the like can be provided to the food serving piece through the dining furniture which is provided with a power source or means for receiving power, devices for producing signals and also devices for sensing and/or receiving signals.

The food serving piece may have all of the circuitry and electrowetting-based components contained in the plate. For example, by molding an upper or lower layer of a plate having compartments, channels and electronic interconnects for housing and connecting the dynamic zone, the various devices may readily be placed in their appropriate positions and relationships and connected accordingly. According to this embodiment, the molded food serving piece serves as consolidation in which the dynamic zone is connected. The food serving piece is further provided with a power source or means for receiving power, devices for producing signals to the dynamic zone and also devices for sensing and/or receiving signals.

In another embodiment, the dynamic zone may be incorporated in the food serving piece during its production. For example, a bottom layer of the food serving piece is provided with electrodes and an electrode selector. The upper layer consists of a dielectric material like, but is not limited to, porcelain, parylene and the like. On this upper layer an optional hydrophobic or superhydrophobic layer is applied on which the food is present. In this way the food serving piece can be washed and the devices and circuitry between the layers are protected from corrosion. By having an external power source or providing for a sealed compartment for receiving a power source, one can provide an integral plate that only lacks the power source, but can be connected with the power source when in use.

In a useful embodiment, the food serving piece may receive power inductively from a power source external to the piece, so the food serving piece may be entirely sealed with a water resistant seal. The foodware may accept wired or wireless input that affects the free movement of the liquid food. For example, the foodware may accept voice input, wired or wireless mouse input, wired or wireless peripheral device input.

Games may be played using the functional dynamic food dish where the liquid food serves as a visual feedback display. The food serving piece may have build in controls for controlling the movement of the liquid food, providing game control input, communicating with other food serving pieces, and the like.

Other embodiments of the invention will be apparent to those skilled in the art from consideration of the specification and practice of the invention disclosed herein. It is intended that the specification and examples be considered as exemplary only, with a true scope and spirit of the invention being indicated by the following claims.

Drawing Description

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

The present invention will become more fully understood from the detailed description given herein below and the accompanying drawings which are given by way of illustration only, and thus are not limitative of the present invention, and wherein:

Figure 1 is a picture of a food serving piece (1) for containing, displaying or serving food, foodstuff and the like, which comprises one zone, the dynamic zone (3), comprising an electrohydrodynamic transport element for transporting fluid food droplets (5) to the foodstuff present on the food serving piece, located on a food zone (2). It displays the upper site (the site faced to the animal or subject when serving the food). In this example the electrohydrodynamic transport element used is an electrowetting-based apparatus which is composed as follows. On a glass substrate, an aluminium layer of 50 nm thickness is deposited which forms the conductive electrodes (as shown in Figure 2, (6)) forming electrohydrodynamic tracks (4). On this layer, a second layer of dielectric Parylene C (Plasma Parylene Coating Services, Rosenheim, Germany) is deposited of 2,8 μιη thickness. To render the dielectric layer hydrophobic, a third layer of Teflon® AF 1600 (DuPont, Belgium) of 800 nm thickness is spin coated. On this third layer, the liquid food droplets are moved freely.

Figure 2 is a magnification of the electrohydrodynamic tracks (4) of Figure 1. The electrohydrodynamics tracks are transport tracks wherein the drivers are electrodes (6) organized in arrays or combinations of multiple arrays partly being part of the electrowetting- based apparatus. The electrodes can have different shapes, but are mostly toothed to form inter-digitated fingers between adjacent electrodes (7) which have typically a gap between them of 10 μιη. To provide electrical connection with the electrode selector, conductive wires (8) are provided to each of the electrodes.

Figure 3 is a picture of an alternative design of a food serving piece (1) which contains besides a dynamic zone (3) also several reservoirs (9) for holding bulk liquid food. The reservoirs are adjacent to the dynamic zone but are invisible to the user because they are worked into the food serving piece (1). The invisible region is contained between the outer borders of the food serving piece (1) and the central dynamic zone (3) marked by a dashed line). From these reservoirs, the bulk edible liquid is fragmented or discretized into a series of droplets of uniform size onto the dynamic zone by inducing and controlling electrowetting phenomena. Therefore, one or more dispensing electrodes (10) are present on the bottom of the reservoirs. The reservoirs are made accessible by reservoir inlets.

Figure 4 is a picture of still another design of a food serving piece of which the food zone (2) is lower situated than the dynamic zone (3). In this design, the liquid food droplets are transported across the dynamic zone (3) towards the lower situated food zone (2). When the droplets reach the border of the recessed area of the food zone (2), the edible liquids are further transported by the gravity force acting on the liquid food droplets.

Using this design, the transport principle is shortly described. A droplet (5) is disposed on a first electrode, and at least partially overlaps a second electrode adjacent to the first electrode. The second electrode is activated by applying a voltage by means of closing switch S2 which belongs to an electrode selector (12) which is partly represented in Figure 4. By activating the second electrode, the droplet (5) moves from the first electrode to the second electrode. When this method is repeated for the other electrodes present in the electrohydrodynamic track (4), a transport path is created for the food liquid droplet. Resistors belonging to the electrode selector are necessary for discharging the electrodes after activation.