Nanotechnology Touted The Next Revolution In Many Industries Biology

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Nanotechnology has been touted as the next revolution in many industries, including food processing and packaging. The applications of nano-based technology in food industry may include nanoparticulate delivery systems (e.g. micelles, liposomes, nanoemulsions, biopolymeric nanoparticles and cubosomes), food safety and biosecurity (e.g. nanosensors), and nanotoxicity.

Chen et al., 2006; HSE, 2006; IFST, 2006; Maynard, 2006


Nanotechnology has the potential to significantly alter both the physical and functional foods we eat. It is now conceivable that food scientists can develop 'smart' foods that will respond to the body's nutrient deficiencies and deliver nutrients more efficiently without altering the taste or the texture of the product.

The project on emerging nanotechnology (PEN). 2009. An inventory of nanotechnology-based consumer products currently on the market.


Principle applications are on demand preservatives and interactive foods. Nanocapsules can be incorporated into food to deliver nutrients. Addition of nanoparticles to existing food can enable increased absorption of nutrients. Applications that are already being tested in new products are to enter the market. Another key application is additives which could easily be absorbed by the body and could increase product shelf life. Nanosized dispersions, emulsions and filled micelles have the advantage that they are not subjected to sedimentation which gives better product life span and storage. As their size is much smaller than the wavelength of light, they can be incorporated in clear and transparent foods without causing muddiness. Substances difficult to dissolve can more easily be absorbed by the body if they are if nanoscale size due to their large surface area. If the active substance is to be protected during storage or passage through the intestines the existing nanotechnology can produce perfect protective layers. It is also possible to tailor protective layers to release active substances in an "intelligent" way, e.g. caused by a change of Ph-value.

Lund University Commissioned Education 2009


New types of membranes including micro and nano-sieves can be applied in food processing. The pores of the sieves are in the micrometer and nanometer range. They can be used for the filtration of beer or of milk for cheese production.

In future, they may also be used for preparing water-filled fat colloids to produce low fat milk with the same taste as full fat milk which could then be used in creamy low fat ice cream. They can also be used for encapsulating valuable food ingredients such as minerals in a coating of another ingredient to boost take up by the body or to avoid these ingredients being lost during cooking.


Currently, some food additives with nano-ingredients are sold in USA and Germany. These additives may imply that nanoparticles are present in the food. The additives are mainly aimed at the diet, sports and health food markets and contain minerals with a nano-formulation, such as silicon dioxide, magnesium, calcium, etc. The particle size of these minerals is claimed to be smaller than 100 nanometer so they can pass through the stomach wall and into body cells more quickly than ordinary minerals with larger particle size.

Nano-additives can also be incorporated in micelles or capsules of protein or another natural food ingredient. Micelles are tiny spheres of oil or fat coated with a thin layer of bipolar molecules of which on end is soluble in fat and the other in water. The micelles are suspended in water, or conversely, water is encapsulated in micelles and suspended in oil. Such nanocapsules can for example contain healthy Omega3 fish oil which has a strong and unpleasant taste and only release it in the stomach.


Food and nutrition companies foresee a great deal of promise for nanotechnology in novel food products. In novel food, the ingredients which naturally occur in food are adapted for better taste, digestion or to address the specific nutrition needs of special groups such as babies, elderly or patients. Low fat milk, cheese and ice cream with the same taste as full fat products have already been mentioned. An ice gel for soft drinks or ice-cream has been developed. The jelly-like ice gel consists of very small ice crystals containing even tinier bubbles of carbon dioxide. The carbon dioxide bubbles are 1-10 nanometers in diameter, much smaller in carbon dioxide bubbles in soft drinks. In the mouth, the ice gel causes a feeling similar to effervescent tablets.

Not only the food itself may be adapted, external diagnostic devices incorporating non sensors may also be used to achieve a diet which is better targeted to the needs of the body of an individual consumer. A future consumer may be able to use a fast handheld diagnostic device to test their body's actual need for specific food ingredients such as minerals and adapt their diet accordingly and, similarly, a diabetic patient could use a glucose sensor to establish their need for insulin.

NanoroadSME, "Nanomaterial roadmap 2015; Roadmap report concerning the use of nanomaterials in the medical health sector", NanoroadSME, 2006


Nanotechnology has been used in a wide range of applications such as water purification, cell-wall rupture, slow release of nutroceuticals, micro-encapsulation, deodorization, disinfectants, antimicrobial and antifungal functions and increase of shelf life. These applications are divided into several categories including food processing, nutraceutical delivery, packaging and safety and sensing, in which many different types of materials has been used.

C. - F. Chau et al. / Trends in Food Science & Technology 18 (2007) 269-280

Interactive foods and beverages give desired flavours and colours by the addition of nanocapsules which burst at different microwave frequencies.

ETC Group. Action Group on Erosion, Technology and Conservation (2005b). The potential impacts of nano-scale technologies on commodity markets: the implications for commodity dependent developing countries.

Water purification and treatment focusing on areas such as membranes and membrane processes, biofouling and distinction and contaminant removal.

INNI. Israel National Nanotechnology Initiative (2006). Research in Israel and U.S.

Development of nano-scale formulations of different traditional herbal plants by reducing the herbs to nanoscale powder or emulsion.

ElAmin, A. (2005b). Claim: nanofood patent could close down innovation.

Miconization of ganoderma spore to ultrafine powder by top-down approach, resulting in the rupture of cell walls and release of potential active ingredients.

Liu, X., Wang, J. H., & Yuan, J. P. (2005). Pharmacological and anti-tumor activities of ganoderma spores processed by top-down approaches. Journal of Nonscience and Nanotechnology, 5, 2001-2013.

Frying oil refining catalytic device inhibits thermal polymerization pf frying oil and reduce off-odours.

OilFresh (2005). Oil 1000, frying oil reforming catalytic device.

Micrometers long stiff hollow nanotube made of milk protein by self-assembly have potential to be used as novel ingredients for viscosifying, gelatin, nanoencapsulation, and controlled release purposes.

Graveland-Bikkera, J. F., & de Kruifa, C. G. (2006). Unique milk protein based nanotubes: food and nanotechnology meet. Trends in Food Science & Technology, 17, 196-203.

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