Appetizing equation: Use the power of math to improve food texture, consistency

Purdue developed a mathematical model for use in designing starch products with desirable textures

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The word starch brings to mind for many people either a food component or something used to stiffen clothing – but its use covers much territory. Starch is used in a wide variety of food and non-food settings. In fact, the global corn starch market is expected to reach $34 billion by 2025.

Starch is used to keep food products fresh, improve taste and control viscosity. One big challenge remains for manufacturers, especially in the food sector: how to determine the ideal temperature to heat the starch for best results.

“There has been no systematic method for predicting the texture of starch paste that is obtained by heating starch suspension,” said Ganesan Narsimhan, a professor of agricultural and biological engineering at Purdue University. “The current trial-and-error methods make process design very expensive.”

Ganesan Narsimhan, Vivek Narsimhan, an assistant professor of chemical engineering, and their team at Purdue created a mathematical model. It predicts the volume fraction of starch granule expression when subjected to a specific heating profile, and relates the volume fraction to the texture of the final product using a master curve.

The team used a reverse engineering process to create a model that allows manufacturers to design a starch-based product with desirable texture and consistency. A video about the technology is available here.

“We have demonstrated the effectiveness of our model with a variety of starches such as corn, rice and potato,” Narsimhan said. “It can be used by food manufacturers to save time and capital through new design processes and by food ingredient companies to modify the physical characteristics of starch to achieve products of desirable textures.”

The team has worked with the Purdue Research Foundation Office of Technology Commercialization on patenting and licensing the technology.

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