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Sean X Liu

Research Leader
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Phone: (309) 681-6551
Fax: (309) 681-6685
Room 2054
1815 N University St
Peoria IL 61604

Biography and Research

Sean Liu has worked as Supervisory Research Physical Scientist at ARS in Peoria since 2007. He received a B.S. from East China University of Science and Technology (Shanghai) in Chemical Engineering, and MS/Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering from Kansas State University. He did post-doctoral research at UC Berkeley and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. He also attended classes in Department of Public Administration and Public Policy at American University in Washington, D.C. as part of his USDA SES CDP. Dr. Liu taught in Department of Food Science at Rutgers University before joining ARS as Research Leader in 2007. He was a Faculty Fellow at NASA Johnson Space Center in 2004. Since 2010, he has been organizing annual Corn Dry Millers Conference with North American Milling Association, a partnership between USDA and grain milling communities since 1959. The annual gathering provides a unique platform for exchange of new ideas and discussion of pressing issues among important players of the grain milling industry, academia, and federal research laboratories. Currently, Dr. Sean Liu collaborates with scientists at NCAUR conducting research on the following four projects: 1. functional food ingredients from ancient grains; 2. pulses processing and utilization; 3. oil emulsion, oxidation of frying oil, and development of trans fat alternatives; and 4. development of standards and prediction models for rapid measurements of soybean compositions using NIR. The NIR project is funded by United Soybean Board (USB). The major goal for functional ingredient/bioactive components/composites (projects 1 and 2) is to develop new technologies from ancient grains, pulses, and their processed products and by-products for producing commercially viable functional ingredients that promote human health and wellness. Our research is built on the successful developments of the Trim Technologies and Fantesk platform materials in the past that are marketed globally and generate millions of dollars in annual sales.

The research that addresses oil and fat oxidation and healthy lipid products in foods (project 3) is primarily conducted through: 1. developing new technologies to structure commodity vegetable oils so that they can be used in place of hydrogenated oils and imported tropical fats used for margarines and shortenings, and 2. developing new antioxidant systems based on natural ingredients or extracts to improve the oxidative stability of commodity oils and bioactive lipids in frying as well as other food systems. The ultimate goal of the multi-year USB-funded project (project 4) is to enable soybean breeders, farmers, and international soybean importers to scan soybean seeds for economically important compositional traits and variations with relatively simple NIR instruments either used in a lab setting, as a handheld device or installed in grain elevators for quality monitoring and value-based pricing. The objectives of the healthy functional food ingredients developed from underutilized crops such as ancient grains and pulses will be accomplished through the uses of thermos-mechanical processes and enzymatic treatment in order unlock the bioactive constituents in the feedstock that makes the resulting food materials healthy and functional in commercial food production. The healthiness of oil and fat is achieved through the development of systems of natural antioxidants and trans fat alternatives that will be used to replace synthetic antioxidants and partial hydrogenated oil that used in spread, margarine, and shortening.

Dr. Liu and his collaborators in NCAUR and in other ARS locations work to address the problem of lack of accurate and consistent analytical measurements of soybean meal compositions using instruments such as NIR machines; it will be accomplished through identifying and validating measurement techniques and developing accurate, globally accepted calibrations of NIR models for digestible sugars, amino acids as well as other functional minor constituents of soybean. They have used wet chemistry to analyze tens of thousands of globally sourced soybeans from all major growing regions of the world to ensure the prediction models are robust and validated.