Over the past few months I have attended several meetings where nanotechnology in the food and beverage industry was a key topic of interest. Frustratingly there was little practical detail available for those of us on the fringes of this emerging technology so I decided to have a look around to see what was going on. Thus the topic of my first blog is nanotechnology.
Nanotechnology is the manipulation, development and manufacture of materials typically in the size range 1-100 nm. At this size, particles can exhibit properties not necessarily observed at greater sizes in the nanometre (100-1000 nm) to micrometre range. Nanomaterials may be natural or specifically engineered nanomaterials (ENMs). They are all around us in our everyday lives. They are extremely mobile in their free state with a low sedimentation rate; they have large specific surface areas, and may demonstrate quantum effects. As a consequence, the physical and chemical properties of materials at the nano scale may differ from those at the micro and macro scale. These differences may include colour, melting point, crystal structure, reactivity, conductivity, magnetism and mechanical strength.
One of the simplest natural examples of natural nanomaterial is the presence of nanoparticles in milk. Milk comprises, amongst other components, an emulsion of small fat droplets and a suspension of milk proteins such as casein. A demonstration of the analysis of milk carried out by Malvern Instruments using laser diffraction illustrated that a higher proportion of smaller particles (less than 100 nm) was present in skimmed milk than was in full fat milk. These smallest particles comprise casein, present as micelles. Further information can be found on Malvern’s web site at http://bit.ly/19qa5aA.
Applications in the food ingredients industry
There are a large number of potential applications for nanotechnology in the wider food and beverage industry as illustrated in the diagram below (figure 1).
Figure 1. Potential applications for nanotechnology in the food industry (modified from Weiss, Takhistov and McClements 2006).
In Part 2 the blog will focus on the current and potential use of nanomaterials in novel food and beverage applications.
Craig is a consultant, a flavour enthusiast and an unapologetic analytical chemistry geek.