Joined: 16 Mar 2004
|Posted: Wed Mar 21, 2007 11:50 am Post subject: Nanotech research holds promise for food industry
|Nanotech research holds promise for food industry, say scientists
Discoveries in nanotechnology are affecting a range of aspects in the food industry, from food safety to the molecular synthesis of new products and ingredients, according to a survey of current research by scientists.
The four major areas in food production that may benefit from nanotechnology development are microscale and nanoscale processing, product development, and methods and instrumentation design for improved safety and biosecurity, the scientists say in an article published in the current issue of the Journal of Food Science.
"The fact that systems with structural features on the nanoscale have physical, chemical, and biological properties substantially different from their macroscopic counterparts is changing the understanding of biological and physical phenomena in food systems," they say.
Nanotechnology, which deals with controlling matter at near-atomic scales to produce unique or enhanced materials, products and devices, has been touted as the next revolution in many industries, including food manufacturing and packaging. Yet the public's concerns have been raised that nanostructured materials could potentially lead to unforeseen health or environmental hazards.
In the food area fears arise over the unknown consequences of digesting nano-scale particles designed to behave in specific way in the body.
In the article scientists Jochen Weiss, Paul Takhistov, and Julian McClements give an overview of the current state of nanotechnology research in the food industry, providing processors with a heads up of the probable changes that may come their way in the sector.
"Strategies to apply nanoscience to the food industry are quite different from these more traditional applications of nanotechnology," the scientists noted. " Food processing is a multitechnological manufacturing industry involving a wide variety of raw materials, high biosafety requirements, and well-regulated technological processes."
The potential benefits of nanotechnology have been recognized by many industries, and commercial products are already being manufactured, such as in the microelectronics, aerospace, and pharmaceutical industries. Developments in these industries are driven by fundamental and applied research in physics, chemistry, biology, engineering, and materials science.
In contrast, applications of nanotechnology within the food industry are rather limited, the scientists say.
Production of nanoscale structures for use in food science and technology therefore frequently relies on an in-depth understanding of thermodynamically driven self-assembly processes, write the scientists.
They suggest areas of current research that could prove useful for the food sector in the near future include the molecular design of protective surface systems, surface engineering, and various methods of manufacturing, such as electrospinning and nanofiltration.
Other areas where nanotechnology has the potential to impact food and agricultural systems include security, disease-treatment delivery methods, tools for molecular and cellular biology, materials for pathogen detection, and the protection of the environment.
This story was first posted on 20th November 2006.