Titanium dioxide is also known as titanium white and this is because it is a very effective white pigment. It is a fine white powder and a naturally occurring oxide that is used in a variety of common products including paint, toothpaste, textiles, paper and more. It has been used commercially for more than a century due to its light-scattering properties which give it a very vivid hue and it’s thought to be used in two-thirds of all pigments in production today.
Titanium dioxide is usually found in the form of minerals such as anatase and rutile. These are mined and their constituent parts are separated out, including titanium dioxide which is the most commonly used form of titanium worldwide. It has been manufactured as a pigment since 1916 and it works because it has such a high refractive index which has earned it the name ‘brilliant white’ or ‘the whitest of whites’.
Titanium dioxide in sunscreen
One of the most common uses for titanium dioxide is in sunscreen. It is incredibly good at absorbing UV radiation and protecting the skin. Many of the other ingredients used I
n sunscreens only absorb either UVA or UVB rays, but titanium dioxide absorbs both.
Until relatively recently, titanium dioxide sunscreens could leave a white residue on the skin. But the advent of nanotechnology means that it’s now possible to make a nanoparticle that still absorbs UV rays without creating a visible layer on the skin. Titanium oxide-based sunscreens are thought to be kinder to the environment, particularly coral reefs, so they are recommended for those who swim in the ocean to reduce the potential pollutants.
Using titanium dioxide in cooking
Food grade titanium dioxide can be used as a food colouring for icing and to colour a range of different food, including chocolate. It has many other desirable properties including being an anti-caking agent and a nutritional supplement. It is used extensively in confectionery to create strong white colours and is a popular choice for cake makers and decorators.
Titanium dioxide is used in a wide variety of commercially produced foods, including cheeses, edible ices, breakfast cereals, condiments such as mustard and even the icing sugar used on doughnuts. It is often used as a whitening agent for items that are going to be coloured with food dyes such as macarons and Turkish delight. It’s a popular choice for whitening fondant icing and various cake glazes and decorations.
Titanium oxide can be used in baking to make cakes and baked goods a bright and vibrant colour. It is fat-soluble and can be applied to chocolate and other confections with a brush or using a spray gun. It is ideal for decorative desserts and can be used to colour pastry, dough and cake mixes. It is also used to increase opacity in foods such as ice cream in which its ability to scatter light improves its aesthetic appeal.
Titanium oxide’s ability to absorb and deflect UV rays is also used to good effect in food. Some foods are sensitive to UV light, and titanium dioxide can be used to protect them, minimise wastage and extend the shelf life of the item.
For desserts where the key is in the way it looks, titanium dioxide is an ingredient that presentation-conscious chefs will want to have on hand.
Because it’s flavourless and odourless, titanium oxide can be added to anything to whiten it without affecting the flavour of the dish. It is also gluten free, vegan, kosher and halal, so it can be used in a variety of dishes.