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Starch-Water-Oil Mix Fit for Many Uses

By Ben Hardin
January 29, 2001

A once-improbable finding that starch, water and oil can mix to become a material with an unusual variety of forms has led to partnerships between the Agricultural Research Service and industries to develop a wide array of new products.

In 1994 ARS patented the process for making the material, Fantesk. That same year, ARS scientists at the National Center for Agricultural Utilization Research (NCAUR), Peoria, Ill., began working with Seedbiotics, Inc., to find ways to put Fantesk to work. In 1999, Fantesk was first marketed as a seed coating.

Fantesk is formed first as a gel when starch, such as cornstarch, and an oil, such as soy oil, are processed in pressurized steam. Tiny droplets of oil remain well distributed in the starch without a greasy feel.

The oil droplets, 0.1 to 10 microns in diameter, are ideal places to encapsulate certain fat-soluble compounds that contribute flavor to foods. Under one of the latest agreements with ARS, Azure Waves Seafood, Inc., of Cincinnati, Ohio, is developing seafoods seasoned with herbs and spices in Fantesk breading. Other food applications on the horizon include cheeses, soft-serve ice cream, cookies and muffins.

In a newly renovated pilot plant, NCAUR scientists are producing 1,000-gallon lots of Fantesk that a new research partner, Hy-Gene Biomedical Corp. of Ventura, Calif., needs for research. Hy-Gene holds an exclusive license for medical products and a non-exclusive license for cosmetic applications.

Working with Shrieve Chemical Products, Inc., of Woodlands, Texas, scientists at NCAUR invented a way to use a Fantesk formulation as a water-based additive to reduce wear on bits used in mud drilling. Although oil-based additives until now have worked better than those made with water, the market has recently shifted to less costly water-based additives that are less toxic to creatures in the environment.

ARS is the chief scientific research agency in the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Scientific contact: Craig J. Carriere, ARS National Center for Agricultural Utilization Research, Peoria, Ill., phone (309) 681-6551, fax (309) 681-6685,