Mmm, how about adding some agricultural waste to your ice cream? Actually, it might not be a bad idea at all. According to scientists from Colombia's Universidad Pontificia Bolivariana, doing so helps keep ice cream from melting, plus it has some other benefits.

Bananas grow on trees in closely-grouped bunches, and each of those bunches is in turn is attached to a central stalk known as the rachis. When all the bunches are picked, the leftover rachis are simply discarded. Collaborating with colleagues from Canada's University of Guelph, however, a team led by Dr. Robin Zuluaga Gallego put those rachis to use.

The scientists first ground up some of the stalks, and then extracted cellulose nanofibrils (CNFs) from them – nanofibrils are tiny fibers that are thousands of times smaller than the width of a human hair. These flavorless CNFs were subsequently added to ice cream, at concentrations ranging from 0 to three-tenths of a gram per 100 grams of ice cream.

First of all, it was found that adding CNFs to the dessert caused it to melt much more slowly than conventional ice cream. Not only does this mean that people could take longer eating it in hot weather, but it also means that the ice cream is less sensitive to the sort of temperature changes that occur when it's taken in and out of the freezer – this could prolong its shelf life.

Additionally, CNF-enriched low-fat ice cream proved to have a higher viscosity than its regular counterpart, improving its creaminess and texture. It is believed that this is due to the CNFs helping to stabilize the fat structure of the ice cream. If that is the case, then it's possible that the nanofibrils could be used to replace some of the fats in ice cream, bringing its calorie count down.

And if the CNF thing ultimately doesn't work out, scientists at the University of Dundee have previously produced slow-melt ice cream, using a protein derived from mold.

The research was presented this Wednesday at the 255th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society.

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