Industrial Liaison Office

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Biopolymers for the food industry

Density map indicating the presence of gelatine in the same sample Density map indicating the presence of gelatine in the same sample

Polymer matrices and films, both natural and synthetic, are widely used in the food industry because they are biocompatible and biodegradable, and also ensure product consistency and a pleasing sensation on the palate.
Recent years have seen a growing interest in the morphological and structural characterisation of polymer composites on a microscopic scale, since it is fundamental to the understanding of their mechanical and chemicophysical properties.
The principal problems in investigating these structures arise from the absence of contrasting properties that might differentiate the various components, unless generated artificially with fluorescent markers.


Elettra's contribution
It is possible to use infrared (IR) microspectroscopy at Elettra to correlate chemical analysis with its spatial distribution, while the high intensity of synchrotron radiation allows spatial resolutions of the order of a few microns to be achieved without the use of markers.
In collaboration with the University of Trieste, this technique has been applied to the study of deposits of malto-dextrin/gelatine obtained by evaporation at various temperatures, a process which should produce a composite film. However, results have revealed that, at a microscopic scale, the polymer does not show a uniform morphology, and that pure gelatine and malto-dextrin exist in many areas.
Procedures of this kind demonstrate that the IR instrumentation on the SISSI beamline can be used to collect significant data with no chemical effect on the formation process of composite polymer films.


Facility: SISSI Beamline
Synchrotron Based FTIR Spectromicroscopy of Biopolymer Blends Undergoing Phase Separation, O. De Giacomo & A. Cesàro & L. Quaroni, Food Biophysics 3: p 77; 2008.
Density map indicating the presence of gelatine (a), malto-dextrin (b), their composite (c) and water (d) in the same sample