Electrospun fibres could expand bioactive encapsulations

By Stephen Daniells

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Nanotechnology, Food processing, Food science

Beta-carotene, a food colour and antioxidant, can be nano-encapsulated in special spun fibres, offering formulators a fresh approach to adding value to products.

According to researchers from the Novel Materials and Nanotechnology Lab at the Institute of Agrochemistry and Food Technology (IATA) in Valencia, electrospun fibres could nano-encapsulate beta-carotene and protect the nutrient against oxidation, particularly when exposed to light.

“Electrospinning of zein prolamine shows an excellent outlook for its application in the stabilization of light sensitive added-value food components,” ​wrote the researchers in the journal Food Hydrocolloids​.

Industry trend

Food manufacturers are increasingly turning to encapsulation technologies as a way of achieving much-needed differentiation and enhancing product value. Tapping into key and emerging consumer trends with innovative techniques is becoming increasingly important for food manufacturers.

While the majority of focus has been on micro​encapsulation, more and more research is looking at the potential of nano​encapsulation.

Novel techniques

Electrospinning refers to a technique whereby fine fibres are drawn from a liquid using an electrical charge. In this study, the researchers applied the technique to zein, a protein found in maize.

By applying the electrospinning technique to produce zein nanofibres, the Valencia-based researchers then encapsulated beta-carotene. The average fibre cross-sectional size was 1,140 nanometres (1.14 micrometres), and ranged from 540 nm to 3,580 nm, they report.

Beta-carotene was not uniformaly distributed in the fibres, said the researchers, but it was reasonably well dispersed in the fibres.

Lead author Avelina Fernandez and her co-workers also report that, on exposure to UV light, the encapsulated component presented a remarkably good protection”​.

“Electrospinning is therefore reported here as a technology able to produce added-value biopolymer micro and nanofibers that can have good potential in food and nutraceutical formulation and coatings, bioactive food packaging and food processing industries,”​ they wrote

Big future for nano, but concerns remain

According to organisers of the recent Nano and Microtechnologies in the Food & Healthfood Industries conference in Amsterdam, the application of nanotechnology and nanoparticles in food are emerging rapidly.

Some analysts predict that nanotechnology will be incorporated into 16.4bn worth of food products by 2010.

However enthusiasm over the rate of progress and the possibilities is being tempered by concerns over possible downsides of the science of the miniscule, stated the Institute of Nanotechnology.

Source: Food Hydrocolloids​ Volume 23, Issue 5, Pages 1427-1432“Novel route to stabilization of bioactive antioxidants by encapsulation in electrospun fibers of zein prolamine”​Authors: A. Fernandez, S. Torres-Giner, J.M. Lagaron

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