ForMAX beamline is now open for experiments

ForMAX, the newest beamline at MAX IV, is now officially open for experiments. The focus will be research on new, sustainable materials from the forest, but the beamline will also be useful for research in many other fields and industries, including food, textiles, and life science.

ForMAX is specially designed for advanced studies on wood-based materials. It allows in-situ multiscale structural characterization from nm to mm length scales by combining full-field tomographic imaging, small- and wide-angle X-ray scattering (SWAXS), and scanning SWAXS imaging – in a single instrument.

The beamline is an initiative where several market-leading industry companies, mainly from the paper and pulp industry, and academia have joined forces. The construction work has been funded by the Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation, and the operational costs are funded by the industry through Treesearch, a national collaborative platform for academic and industrial research in new materials from the forest.

One goal with ForMAX is to facilitate the development of new, wood-based products that can replace today’s plastic products.

Read more on the MAX IV website

Image: ForMAX beamline

Credit: Anna Sandahl, MAX IV

Creating tastier vegan cheese using synchrotron X-rays

The quest for tastier, more sustainable vegan cheese has led Swedish food company Cassius AB to take a closer look at cheese protein structures. Using synchrotron X-rays at MAX IV, Cassius are searching for the perfect scientific recipe for plant-based cheese.

When regular cheese is produced, the milk proteins react with rennet and form a cheese curd. These specific proteins, formed in a certain structure, are unique to mammalian milk, which makes them difficult to mimic. 

Cassius AB:s research project focuses on getting a deeper understanding of how the proteins in regular cheese form structures spontaneously. It also investigates whether this could happen with mammalian milk proteins produced by genetically engineered microorganisms, in a process called precision fermentation.

Since mimicking all proteins in regular cheese is not necessary, Cassius is concentrating on two of the protein types that play a key role in how cheese coagulates.

Cheese gel balls as protein samples

Johan Krakau, founder of Cassius and brands like GoVego, has teamed up with researchers from RISE within the NextBioForm center to perform the experiment at the MAX IV CoSAXS beamline.

Using Small-Angle X-ray Scattering techniques (SAXS), the research team studies different types of protein samples in the form of micelles – spherical protein aggregations that resemble gel balls – and how different conditions affect their shape and size. For example, when mixed with different amounts of salt, or when the pH value is changed. The team also investigates if these proteins coagulate into a curd structure in the same way that mammalian milk proteins do.

Read more on the MAX IV website

Wild blue wonder: X-ray beam explores food color protein

A natural food colorant called phycocyanin provides a fun, vivid blue in soft drinks, but it is unstable on grocery shelves. Cornell’s synchrotron is helping to steady it.

In food products, the natural blues tend to be moody.

A fun food colorant with a scientific name – phycocyanin – provides a vivid blue pigment that food companies crave, but it can be unstable when placed in soft drinks and sport beverages, and then lose its hues under fluorescent light on grocery shelves.

With the help of physics and the bright X-ray beams from Cornell’s synchrotron, Cornell food scientists have found the recipe for phycocyanin’s unique behavior and they now have a chance to stabilize it, according to new research published Nov. 12 in the American Chemical Society’s journal BioMacromolecules.

“Phycocyanin has a vibrant blue color,” said Alireza Abbaspourrad, the Youngkeun Joh Assistant Professor of Food Chemistry and Ingredient Technology in the Department of Food Science in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. “However, if you want to put phycocyanin into acidified beverages, the blue color fades quickly due to thermal treatment.”

Read more on the Chess Website

Image: A natural food colorant called phycocyanin provides a fun, vivid blue in soft drinks, but it is unstable on grocery shelves. Cornell’s synchrotron is helping to steady it.

Credit: CHESS Cornell Chronicle High Energy

Protecting our food from mercury contamination

One size does not fit all when it comes to using biochar for soil remediation, according to researchers who used the Canadian Light Source (CLS) at the University of Saskatchewan.

Mercury is used in a variety of industries, including textile manufacturing and gold and silver mining. When released into the environment, this highly toxic element causes widespread contamination of soil. As mercury enters rivers, lakes and oceans, it is converted to methylmercury, a neurotoxin that moves into the food chain through fish and seafood, posing a serious risk to human health.

Conventional methods of remediating mercury-contaminated soil – such as adding activated carbon – can be quite expensive to apply on a large scale. However, recent research has found that biochar, a charcoal produced by superheating agriculture or forestry waste in the absence of oxygen, holds promise as a low cost, “green” alternative.

Read more on the Canadian Light Source website

Image: The experimental set-up. Credit: Canadian Light Source

Helping to grow more food in Africa

University of Saskatchewan scientists help farmers in West Africa improve crops.

Derek Peak and Abimfoluwa Olaleye are using Canadian Light Source at the University of Saskatchewan (Usask) to help farmers in Nigeria and the Republic of Benin to grow vegetables less expensively and more sustainably. The USask researchers and their team recently published a paper in Soil Systems that explores the effects of an innovative farming practice, fertilizer microdosing, on two vegetable systems in both countries.

“The overall idea was to scale up good, innovative ideas to solve food security problems in the regions,” says Peak. “We combine agricultural studies out in the field with socio-economic studies and development work.” Olaleye’s interest in the project is both scientific and personal. “Anything agriculture always gets my interest, it’s something I’m passionate about. And helping people is a big bonus. My dad was a farmer back in Nigeria, so I picked up on that,” he says.

>Read more on the Canadian Light Source website

Image: Abimfoluwa Olaleye (right) and Taylor Procyshen, a graduate student who helped with the project, working in the laboratory together.

Analysing the structure of biopolymers for the food industry

A research group from the Institute of Agrochemistry and Food Technology (IATA-CSIC) in Valencia is using scattering techniques at the ALBA Synchrotron to develop new packaging systems made of biopolymers, an environmentally friendly solution for the food industry.

Plastic is the packaging material of most of the food we consume nowadays. This results in a severe problem as common plastics are made of petroleum – a limited resource with highly variable price – and supposes a huge environmental impact – most plastic wastes need more than 400 years to decompose.

Researchers from the Food Safety and Preservation department of the Institute of Agrochemistry and Food Technology (IATA-CSIC), located in Paterna (Valencia), are looking for more sustainable ways of producing food packaging with appropriate mechanical and chemical properties. They are investigating biopolymers that can be made from biomass such as algae.
“We need to look for alternative sources which do not compete with food. This is why marine resources such as algae and microalgae are very interesting. They proliferate very quickly, grow in a wide variety of environments and do not interfere with food production”, according to Ámparo López-Rubio, researcher at the IATA-CSIC.

>Read more on the ALBA website

Image: At the left, Juan Carlos Martínez, scientist from the ALBA Synchrotron with users Amparo López Rubio and Marta Martínez Sanz from IATA-CSIC at the NCD-SWEET experimental hutch.

Samtack uses ALBA Synchrotron light for improving food packaging

Thanks to the CALIPSOplus European project, Samtack company is analysing at ALBA nanoparticles contained in a new food packaging system that will prevent food oxidation and extend its lifetime.

We all expect to purchase high quality and fresh food that, even if it has been kept for few days in the supermarket shelf, it still maintains its optimum safety and quality such as well as flavor. Different ambient conditions can modify food quality: moisture can affect the crispness of the product, oxygen can oxidize food with large fat components (e.g. potato chips) and change its taste, while light can degrade vitamins from milk or even remove the aromatic and volatile components from ground coffee and off-taste. Hence, different barriers are required to protect food from moisture, oxygen or light and that’s the point where packaging plays a key role. Packaging acts as a barrier and extends the product’s shelf life while contributing to diminish the amount of food that is thrown away and avoiding overproduction of food.

Samtack, founded in 1988 and based in Esparreguera (Barcelona), is a manufacturer of glues and adhesives specialized in the sector of graphic arts and packaging. Samtack has developed a new flexible multilayer system, in collaboration with the University of Zaragoza and the Complutense University of Madrid, that contains Selenium nanoparticles and is capable to increase food shelf life.

>Read more on the ALBA website

A first look at how miniscule bubbles affect the texture of noodles

The texture of a noodle is a remarkably complicated thing. When you bite into a spoonful of ramen noodles, you expect a bit of springiness (or a resistance to your bite) on the outside and a pleasantly soft give on the interior. These variations are so tiny as to be often overlooked, but they matter to noodle quality.

There are many factors in play in making a good noodle. For a wheat noodle, the structure of the gluten affects the overall quality. How a noodle dough is stretched, folded, and rolled out matters. And in between all of this, there are miniscule air bubbles that are part of the mix and influence texture.

Until recently, no one had ever looked at the bubbles in noodle dough.

“There was absolutely nothing in the literature indicating that the bubbles were there or that they were important at all. We did have some indirect evidence for bubbles from our ultrasonic experiments, but CLS (Canadian Light Source) microtomography was in some ways a hail Mary experiment: OK, let’s just sheet some dough and see what we find,” said Martin Scanlon, U of M professor in the Faculty of Agriculture and Food Sciences, and the project’s lead researcher.

>Read more on the Canadian Light Source website

 

Photonic structure of white beetle wing scales: optimized by evolution

They have developed a complicated three-dimensional photonic structure on their wing scales in order to efficiently reflect white light.

At the same time, this structure is very porous and is confined within a thin layer of about 10  µm, about one fifth of the thickness of ordinary white paper, which makes it very light and therefore advantageous to fly.

Researchers of the University of Fribourg and their collaborators wanted to understand how this fascinating structure is optimized, for which they needed a faithful 3D image. However, conventional microscopy techniques providing enough spatial resolution such as electron microscopy required the sample to be cut for imaging consecutive slices, causing damage of the structure during the process.

>Read More on the PSI website

Image: Cyphochilus white beetle source: PSI