Microencapsulation of Gluten

For a new way of making meat analogs, gluten are used to make the fibrous structure that is lacking in current artificial meats. A low shear device, i.e. couette device, is used to shear the gluten into this structure. In this process the ingredients are mixed together and subsequently put into a couette device where the gluten is sheared into fibers. However in the mixing a lot of gluten and energy are lost due to one of the properties of gluten: it forms a sticky, viscous gel in contact with water.

So it is thought that the mixing and the process itself might be improved by encapsulating gluten with a biopolymer, for example gums. Small particles of biopolymer filled with gluten can be mixed into the composition, where the biopolymer will prevent the gluten from contacting the water. This way gelling of the gluten can be prevented. This would eventually improve the mixing stage minimizing the loss of gluten and the cleaning cost. While processing at elevated temperatures (80-120 oC) and subjecting the mixture in a simple shear flow we would prefer the encapsulation to dissolve or fail thus releasing the gluten. This might improve the overall process and product quality at the end.

The goal of this project is to encapsulate gluten in a suitable biopolymer using the Encapsulator equipment from Buchi. Thereto a suitable biopolymer must be chosen. Bead formation must be optimized before adding the gluten to the mix. The polymer beads will be tested on their properties. When the desired properties are achieved, gluten will be added to the mix and the resulting partices will be tested on their performance, outside as well as inside the couette device.

The objective of this project is to encapsulate the gluten powder at hand with a suitable biopolymer using the encapsulator equipment (see figure). First the bead formation is studied without adding gluten. Once optimized, gluten are added and the resulting particle will be tested on their performance in the process. Points of focus are the optimization of the process parameters. Important parameters are nozzle diameters, flow rates, nozzle vibration frequency, type or concentration of hardening solution, possible additives, etc. These parameters may influence things like particle morphology (sphericity, porosity), particle size distribution, coating efficiency, gluten loading, etc.