Plant proteins have the future ! It is becoming very clear that we cannot go on relying so strongly on animals as the source of protein in our diet. Likewise, we cannot go on producing our polymers for packaging and other purposes from fossil fuels. Two PhDs in the protein materials group, Dana and Xiufeng, focus on plant protein materials.
Xiufeng is aiming at using zein, a widely available protein from corn, as an ingredient for replacing synthetic polymers in encapsulation applications. Think e.g. of the fragrances in washing powders: these are enclosed in little plastic shells that break when you rub your towel and then release a “fresh” smell. Right now synthetic polymers (made from fossil fuels) are used for such shells, but together with a Swiss company, we are looking for ways to use plant proteins such as zein to make such capsules.
Techniques: Emulsion Stability, Rheology, Confocal Scanning Laser Microscopy, Electron Microscopy, Phase Behavior, Enzymatic protein modification, (Enzymatic) protein crosslinking.