Edible nanostructures could revolutionise food technology

A new class of nanostructures that could be used for gas storage and food and medical technologies has been discovered by researchers in the UK and the US.

The nanostructures are the first porous crystals that are all-natural metal-organic frameworks (MOFs) – well-ordered, lattice-like crystals that are capable of storing gases such as hydrogen and carbon dioxide.

They are also the first of their kind to be non-toxic, edible and biorenewable. Prior to the discovery, MOFs were made from petroleum-based ingredients.

Lead researcher Professor Fraser Stoddart at Northwestern said the nanostructures were an “accidental discovery.”

The team of researchers, which comprised of Stoddart and scientists at the University of California in the US, and the University of St Andrews in the UK, created the edible MOFs using table sugar and gamma-cyclodextrin, an eight-membered sugar ring produced from biorenewable cornstarch.

The researchers originally set out to make new molecular architectures based on gamma-cyclodextrin, however produced MOF crystals instead.

“With our accidental discovery, chemistry in the kitchen has taken on a whole new meaning,” Mr Stoddart said.

“It is both uplifting and humbling to come to terms with the fact that a piece of serendipity could have far-reaching consequences for energy storage and environmental remediation on the one hand and food quality control and health care on the other.”

The research has been published in the scientific journal Angewandte Chemie.

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