The Rapid Visco Analyser used in ground-breaking starch research

A collaborative project between the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO) and Perten Instruments has, for the first time, used neutron scattering to help unravel the changes that occur in starch structure at the molecular level during cooking.

A Perten Rapid Visco Analyser (RVA) was specially modified to allow a beam of neutrons to shine through the starch during a standard pasting profile, using ANSTO's Small Angle Neutron Scattering (SANS) facility known as "Quokka".

Starch is widely used in many foods, and industrial products as diverse as paper, adhesives, textiles and biofuels. By better understanding the structure-function relationship of starch during cooking, this work offers new insights into how starch-based products are formed, and so opportunities to improve both the products and the processes used to make them.

The Rapid Visco Analyser is a flexible heating and cooling, rotational viscometer with variable shear rate. It is widely used in the starch and food industries to assess the gelatinazation characteristics of ingredients and finished products.

Recognizing the importance of this work, the Australian Federal Minister for Science Senator Kim Carr writes "This discovery could mean manufacturers will be able to make food more efficiently, with lower energy input. It also gives manufacturers the power to consistently create starches with known health benefits, like those that have been proven to help counter bowel cancer."

Dr Elliot Gilbert, who heads ANSTO's food science program, along with Dr James Doutch, worked with Perten Australia to create the "nRVA" used in this project. The instrument is now available for research use by third parties.

Please contact Mark Bason at Perten Instruments Australia (mbason@perten.com) for more details.

Visit ANSTO's website and read more about the project

Read more about the Rapid Visco Analyser