The research group Functional Ingredients (FI) offers research with a focus on development of new applications for biopolymers. Biopolymers are produced on a large scale in nature and are used in both food and non-food applications. The research activities of FI enclose the whole industrial chain from ingredient development and application in final products whereby various disciplines, necessary for executing these applications, are integrated.
The projects within FI cover a wide range of biopolymer-related topics. Examples vary from the development of functional proteins from plants to physical modification of starches via the use of e.g. super-heated-steam (SHS) to develop clean label ingredients with new functionality. Another important topic of research involves the reduction of sugar, saturated fats, and salt in food products such as snacks, candy, and meat products. Reduction is achieved via selective separation of e.g. sugar in fruit juices, reformulation of food products to produce a healthier composition of final food products while keeping taste and mouthfeel at the same level as the original product. The use of 3D printing techniques for the development of new food structures is also available in FI.
The research in the non-food area at FI is aimed at pre-treatment of biomass, mainly lignocellulose, to glucose for fermentation into ethanol or other building blocks, which can be used for e.g. the development of polymers. Another focus of research in the non-food area is on lignin. Topics are development of bitumen additives and water treatment chemicals.
Functional Ingredients operates in 4 main research areas, namely:
Most projects within FI are executed by at least two different research areas. Each of the core expertise of these research areas are crucial in these projects aiming at creating the best solutions for the research questions of these projects. The five research areas of FI allow for a broad spectrum of biopolymer related topics for research in both the food and non-food area.
Reduction of sucrose in fruit juices
FI developed for a company a new separation process for the reduction of sucrose in fruit juices while keeping the flavour of the juice. In this way, a new group of products has been created carrying a lower calorie load.
Food products with healthier compositions
In the food market various health aspects are an important issue. Functionalities of sugar, fat, salt and fibre content are an important part of our research program named “reformulation 2.0”. The knowledge developed in this program is applied to various product formulations with great success. It is also applied to our 3D printing technology for creating new food structures.
Pre-treatment of biomass
The production of glucose from lignocellulose biomass is becoming an important area of research. FI has developed technology which enables the production of glucose from lignocellulose via the use of enzymes at high dry weight concentrations. The harvested glucose can be used in fermentations to produce high value added compounds.
Dewatering and selective isolation of valuable ingredients from food side streams
Mild and cost effective dewatering of liquid foods is an important issue to avoid or reduce expensive evaporation processes. FI has developed various membrane technologies for dewatering liquid food streams. By using membrane distillation food product scan be isolated carrying a high dry matter. Membrane extraction and adsorption are excellent technologies for selective isolation of valuable compounds from complex mixtures.
Electrochemistry is applied for the selective conversion of valuable building blocks from organic raw material from either the food or non-food industry. An example is the electrochemical synthesis of Hydroxy Methyl Furfural (HMF) to Furan Di Carboxylic Acid (FDCA). FDCA is the monomer building block to produce the polymer PEF which is an excellent replacer of PET.
The research group FI has recently started research on lignin for new applications. The research focusses on chemical conversion of lignin to products which are applicable in the non-food market. The focus of the research is asphalt.
Reuse of cooling water by desalination with electro dialysis
By applying EDR (Electro Dialysis Reversal) it is possible to desalinate cooling tower blowdown water to the desired salt concentration in a stable process (limited fouling). The desalinated water can be reused as process water.