A team of researchers at the Kansas State University made a scientific first by applying microscopic-level chemical imaging to analyze single starch granules.
The team comprises David Wetzel, Kansas State University’s professor of grain science and industry; John Reffner, a chemistry professor at John Jay College, City University of New York; and Yong-Cheng Shi, an associate professor at Kansas State University for grain science and industry.
The new finding can be used by the starch manufacturers to analyze whether the modifying agent is spread uniformly among all individual starch granules during the production process. The team was assisted by the K-State graduate research assistant in the grain science and industry, Mark Boatwright, for data processing.
As a single starch granule measures 15 µm in diameter, it is difficult to isolate the modification. For this analysis, the team used the advanced synchrotron infrared microscope at the Brookhaven National Laboratory located in Upton, New York. This microscope utilizes light that is extremely bright and does not have thermal noise. Although the light is focused narrowly resembling a laser, it has a range of wavelengths.
Wetzel explained that the technology was used to perform an apparently impossible task, but it was accomplished. In addition to the food industry, the newly developed techniques can be applied in various other starch-using industries such as corrugated board adhesives, body powder, papermaking and clothing/laundry starch, Wetzel said.
The techniques can also be used as a viscosity adjuster in oil exploration for drilling fluid. Wetzel added that the modified starch is a major business, and it is adapted to offer suitable emulsifying properties. Further he said that whoever deals with microscopic-level material or starch and doubts chemical heterogeneity can use the same technique for analysis.
The results of this research, “Synchrotron Infrared Confocal Microspectroscopical Detection of Heterogeneity Within Chemically Modified Single Starch Granules,” were published in the Applied Spectroscopy journal’s March edition.