Food Nanotechnology

Food Nanotechnology – The Research Being Conducted

 

What is Food Nanotechnology?

Since the definition of nanotechnology involves controlling, building, and restructuring materials on an atomic and molecular scale on the order of tens to a few hundreds of nanometers (1x10-8 to 1x10-9 m), it can be said that nanotechnology has largely been used in food for packaging for many years, but not so much in other areas. Nanotechnology starts with how the food is grown, at the agricultural level, then expands into the processing level, and is even used in how food is packaged. Plenty of research is being done in the field of food nanotechnology in areas such as food processing, food packaging, and supplements to bring about a variety of different applications. Some examples include nanosensors to detect spoiled food, nanoparticles to reduce the occurrence of food spoilage, nanoparticles to block UV rays and provide anti-bacterial protection, nanosensors to detect contaminates in food, nanocapsules in foods to deliver vitamins and nutrients to the body if a vitamin deficiency is detected, and even nanocapsules added to foods to make them interactive which would allow for choice of flavors and colors. It seems limitless to what food technologists are prepared to do in the field of food nanotechnology.

Nanotechnology in Food Processing

Food nanotechnology is currently being researched and tested in the field of food processing, though these nanotechnologies are still at the developmental stage. One such technology being researched is the additive of nanocapsules to food to infuse plant-based steroids to replace a meat's cholesterol. In other words, these nanocapsules in plant would provide the “good” cholesterol the human body needs without the necessity of meat. In addition, nanoparticles are being tested to selectively bind and remove harmful chemicals or pathogens from food. Finally, still at the research stage, nanoemulsions are being tested in plants for better availability of nutrients and dispersion amongst the plant.

Nanotechnology in Food Packaging

The most widely used food nanotechnology today is through clay nanocomposites which provide impermeable barriers to gasses, such as oxygen or carbon dioxide, in packaging such as bottles, cartons, and films. But, plenty of other food nanotechnologies are being researched, including adding antibodies to fluorescent nanoparticles to detect chemicals or foodborne pathogens. Plus, improved nanoclays and nanofilms are being developed to act as barriers to prevent spoilage oxygen absorption. Therefore, your foods will last longer. And, to reduce waste, silicate nanoparticles are being tested to provide lighter and stronger heat-resistant films to package foods in.

Nanotechnology in Supplements

The third area of food nanotechnology centers on supplements, or additives, to food for a variety of health benefits. Foremost, nanosized powders are being researched that provide increased absorption of nutrients into the human body. Equally important is the research into nanocochleates, which would deliver nutrients more efficiently to cells. As an added benefits, these nanocochleates would not alter the color or taste of food. Lastly, vitamin sprays, still in the research in development stage, aim to disperse active vitamin molecules into nanodroplets for human consumption, therefore increasing absorption. 

Contact Us

Bionanotechnology Laboratory
Suresh Neethirajan

School of Engineering
University of Guelph
Guelph, Ontario
Canada N1G 2W1

Office:
Room 3513 - Richards Building
50 Stone Road East

Lab: THRN 2133 BioNano Lab

Phone: (519) 824-4120 Ext 53922
Fax: (519) 836-0227

E-mail: sneethir@uoguelph.ca

 
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