Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Vegetarian cutlet

Meat production is complicated, costly and not eco-friendly: fatted have to consume five to eight kilos of grain just to generate one of . It would be simpler and more sustainable if one were to make cutlets out of seed – without the detour through the animal's body. Impossible? Not entirely: there are plants that are suitable for the production of meat substitute products. Researchers in the EU-project "LikeMeat" have studied what they are, and how they can be incorporated into a product that tastes and looks like meat. "Studies have shown that many Europeans are ready to give up meat, but there have only been a handful of alternatives until now," explains Florian Wild. The researcher at the Fraunhofer Institute for Process Engineering and Packaging IVV in Freising is spearheading the project. "Our goal is to develop a vegetable surrogate for meat that is both juicy and fibrous, but that also has a pleasant flavor. The product should have a long shelf life, it should not be more expensive than meat, and be suitable for vegetarians and allergy sufferers."

In addition to the scientists at IVV, experts from the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna (BOKU) are also participating in the development, as are consumer researchers from the University of Wageningen, in the Netherlands, and eleven small to medium-sized corporations that manufacture or do business in food or food ingredients. The team roster also includes two Austrian and one Dutch company that have hitherto only processed meat, as well as an organic food producer from Spain. "As a group, we are seeking to engineer a simple production chain in which pure vegetable raw materials are used to produce a meat substitute that corresponds to consumer preferences," as Wild summarizes it. The ingredients originate from the land: Wheat and peas, lupins and soya are all suited for production, explains Wild: "We are intentionally not tying ourselves down to one type of plant because many people get an allergic reaction to the one or other substance. In the process, we have developed a variety of recipes. They are the basis for a product spectrum that offers a broad selection to people who suffer food intolerance or allergies."

But how do you turn a field crop into meat? "The processing technology was the biggest challenge," recalls the project manager. The previously conventional methods of mixing plant proteins with a little water, and heating them under high pressure, proved to be useless: With this hot extrusion process, the mass is heated up under high pressure. At the moment when it pushes through the die, the temperature drops dramatically, steam is released and the mass foams up. That is certainly the desired effect when making peanut flips. But not in the production of meat substitutes. Wild and his colleagues use a new process specially developed for meat substitutes: The main ingredients – water and plant proteins – are brought to a boil and slowly cooled down. Since no sudden release of pressure takes place, no steam blows out of the paste. As the temperature sinks, the protein molecules start to form chains. This gives rise to a fibrous structure that is quite similar to that of meat.

The prototype of the new vegetarian cutlet factory is currently located in the IVV laboratory. The system is no larger than two table tennis tables. On request, it can produce one endless piece of meat approximately 1-cm thick that can be shaped as desired, for example into little morsels for diced or thinly-sliced meats, or entire cutlets. The research team is currently able to produce 60 to 70 kilos of the meat substitute per hour – or 300 to 500 kilos per day. "Consistency and texture are already superb," Wild assures. There is still a little work to do on the flavor. By the end of the project term, in one year, the meat substitute from the land should be every bit as good as a genuine cutlet, and it should come directly from the machine, ready-to-eat. The experts will present their new product at the Anuga FoodTec trade fair from March 27 through March 30 in Cologne.

Provided by Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft (news : web)

Miniature pressure sensors for medical touch

The droplet goes in a flexible sandwich of the substance , or PDMS. The sensor acts as a variable electrical capacitor. When the sensor is pressed down, the sensing droplet is squeezed over conductive electrodes, increasing its capacitance.

"There's a huge need for flexible sensors in biosensing," said Professor Tingrui Pan, who led the research project.

He and his colleagues used the sensor successfully in measuring the pulse in the human neck. The sensor also could be used in "smart gloves," giving physicians an enhanced ability to measure the firmness of tissues and detect tumors, and in "smart contact lenses," to monitor without affecting vision.

Pan's research paper — for which graduate students Baoqing Nie and Siyuan Xing and ophthalmology professor James Brandt served as co-authors — appeared in the December issue of the journal Lab on a Chip.

Provided by University of California - Davis

Heart of Canada's asbestos country reinvents itself

"We started with just two friends and two desks in an office, with no computer," recalled David Berthiaume, who runs Oleotek, a research center that develops industrial products from and animals fats, rather than oil byproducts.

The oleochemistry center, which now has a team of 11 a decade after its launch, has since migrated to spacious premises next to the former mine in Thetford Mines.

The city along with the nearby town of Asbestos benefited in the 1960s from the extraction of huge of the material banned by Europe in 2005.

A carcinogenic product, asbestos was long used in construction, where it was favored for its resistance to heat and fire.

But over the past 25 years the asbestos industry has collapsed, forcing Thetford Mines, a city of 25,700 inhabitants some 240 kilometers (150 miles) east of Montreal, to adapt its to the changing times.

David Berthiaume, 36, owner and Cyril Devauchelle of Oleotek a green company based in the former headquarters of an asbestos mining company are shown in February 2012 in Thetford Mines, Quebec, Canada. Oleotek, is a research institute devoted to the development of industrial products from vegetable oil and animal fat, rather than petroleum.

His center has since launched a first start-up, Innoltek, which produces non-toxic concrete form release oil for the construction and precast concrete markets.

Once a mono-industrial city riddled with craters and slag heaps of snow-capped mining debris, Thetford Mines has since made huge strides in opening up its economy to new industries, from manufacturing and transportation to tourism, and research.

"In 20 years, 1,000 more jobs were created than were lost, but the salaries are not the same," said the city's Mayor Luc Berthold.

The average salary in Thetford Mines was among the highest in Canada during the 1970s, due to the extra compensation paid for working in risky mining jobs.

"People who worked in the mining sector had special training, whether in tinsmithing, mechanics, welding, etc. It was a good place to foster new businesses because there was specialized labor," said Luc Remillard, president of the local economic development agency.

There is no public data on the unemployment rate in the city, but the Chaudieres-Appalaches region that includes Thetford Mines has 5.7 percent unemployment, according to the Quebec Institute of Statistics. Remillard estimated Thetford Mines is on equal par with the regional figures.

For the first time in 130 years, Canada no longer produces asbestos. The Jeffrey Mine located in Asbestos -- until recently the world's biggest asbestos mine -- is now shuttered.

But it could soon receive a CAN$58 million (US$58.5 million) loan guarantee from the Quebec government to resume activities in the spring, despite protests from a local coalition asking authorities to halt further investments in the asbestos industry.

After a cave-in, LAB Chrysotile closed its Lake Asbestos Mine in October, near Thetford Mines. After going into bankruptcy, it is now seeking a new investor to start its operations back up again.

Despite the success of its economic diversification and the risks associated with asbestos, Thetford officials are adamant about relaunching the Lake Asbestos Mine, which once employed 350 workers.

"Replacing 350 jobs with small businesses takes time. The easiest way for us to keep an active economy is to safeguard our mining operations," Berthold said.

"I don't have a miracle solution. We've been looking for five years for a big business to create 350-400 jobs here, but they don't come a dime a dozen."

(c) 2012 AFP

NMR sheds new light on polymorphic forms in pharmaceutical compounds

Researchers made use of the UK's largest solid-state NMR magnets, housed at the University of Warwick, to carry out the study in collaboration with Astra Zeneca and GlaxoSmithKline.

The analytical methods look directly at the hydrogen and that are at the heart of so-called which control how organic molecules self-assemble into different three-dimensional solid-state structures.

Professor Steven P. Brown from the Department of Physics at the University of Warwick said: "Screening polymorphic forms of is a key part of pharmaceutical development."

"The combination of high magnetic field and novel rf pulse methodologies are allowing us to look by NMR with high precision at the distinct intermolecular hydrogen bonding arrangements that help us understand why pharmaceutical molecules adopt different polymorphic forms."

"By using the University of Warwick's state-of-the-art facilities we are able to shed new light on this complex area."

More information: The two papers are available to view at the following links:

Bradley et al. J. Pharm. Sci. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/jps.23078/abstract
Tatton et al., CrystEngComm http://pubs.rsc.org/en/Content/ArticleLanding/2012/CE/c2ce06547a

Provided by University of Warwick (news : web)