For Refiners, Ethanol Could Mean Faster Gluten By
Ethanol, besides making your car less polluting, could get a new,
environmentally friendly job in the milling industry.
Agricultural Research Service
scientists say ethanol, also known as ethyl alcohol, is key to an experimental
process that should let grain refiners use less water and energy to separate
wheat flour into gluten and flour's other primary component, starch.
Gluten is flour's protein-containing ingredient. Adding extra gluten to
dough helps heavy, whole- wheat breads rise and yields sandwich buns that are
soft yet strong. Gluten also enriches protein content of breakfast cereals and
The starch is used as a food thickener and in numerous industrial products
from cosmetics to cardboard.
Ethanol is approved as a food ingredient by the
Food and Drug Administration.
George H. Robertson and Trung K. Cao developed the new separation process at
ARS' Western Regional Research Center in
The method would take half the time of the conventional approach. The older
technology requires large amounts of water that must be expensively treated
before it can be discharged. But preliminary lab tests suggest that the new
process needs much less water, and that virtually all of it, as well as nearly
all of the ethanol, can be directly reused.
What's more, lab tests indicate gluten derived from the ethanol process may
be stronger than water-separated gluten. Too, the new process uses a lower
temperature to dry the gluten. This saves energy while protecting the flour's
protein strength and other qualities.
ARS is applying for a patent on the process. An article about it appears in
the February issue of ARS' Agricultural Research magazine. The article
is also on the World Wide Web at:
Scientific contact: George H. Robertson, USDA-ARS
Western Regional Research Center,
and Engineering Research Unit, 800 Buchanan St., Albany, CA 94710, phone
(510) 559- 5621, fax (510) 559-5818, email@example.com.