Evaluation Technique Finds New Applications in Food and Agriculture
By Linda McGraw
April 13, 2001
A quick evaluation technique
thats been routinely used to screen and synthesize pharmaceutical
compounds may get a new application in agricultural and food technology,
according to Agricultural Research
Service chemist Jerry W. King. King works at the agencys
National Center for Agricultural
Utilization Research in Peoria, Ill.
The technique, called combinatorial chemistry, employs the rapid use of
small-scale instrumentation that has potential for evaluating
environmentally-friendly processing methods. The advantage is to speed up
laboratory scale evaluations, thereby reducing the cost and time associated
with using larger scale processing equipment.
King has used these quick assessment techniques coupled with highly
pressurized fluids, called supercritical fluids, to optimize extraction
processes, to evaluate the efficiency of enzymes, and to enrich nutraceuticals
and other compounds from plant-derived oils.
Nutraceuticals--compounds for which scientists have documented specific
health benefits--can be obtained using supercritical fluid extraction (SFE),
which has long been used to decaffeinate coffee. The final products are
minimally modified because of less harsh extraction conditions.
Another Peoria scientist has used the technique to extract more and better
quality cedarwood oil from juniper trees. Cedarwood oil--used in cosmetics and
home odorants--is usually extracted from sawdust and wood chips by steam
distillation, a method that produces low oil yields and off-odors. Using the
new technique, ARS chemist Fred Eller, also in Peoria, has obtained 30 percent
more oil than the yield from the conventional steam distillation process
without destroying the oil's aromatic components.
According to King, the application to agricultural research can speed up
laboratory research by several days and can aid scientists in determining
optimum conditions before beginning large-scale processing.
King reported these findings at the 221st annual meeting of the
American Chemical Society
Meeting earlier this month in San Diego, Calif., where he participated in
an all-day symposium, the first of its kind to focus on combinatorial chemistry
and its potential uses for agriculture and food.
ARS is the chief scientific research agency of the
U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Scientific contact: Jerry W. King, ARS National Center for
Agricultural Utilization Research, Peoria, Ill., phone (309) 681-6203, fax
(309) 681-6686, email@example.com.