Friday, August 30, 2013


Scientific research can be funny some times if the objectives and purpose of the efforts by the scientists are carefully looked into. Scientists engaged in research to get a degree can be pardoned to some extent if they take up academic topics with very little relevance to the citizens and after all such work is intended more to train them in carrying out the studies methodically, truthfully and scientifically. There are millions of scientists engaged in food research in public institutions and universities though most of their out put is of very little relevance to the common man. In contrast private sector research produces innumerable patents and workable knowledge based innovations with very high application potential through technologization. Here is a typical piece of investigation from an American university which claims that the high value tea and wines can be used for making antibacterial materials for coating food contact surfaces. Readers may come to their own conclusions after perusing the below referred article.

"Researchers at Northwestern University have discovered new ways of utilizing the properties of naturally occurring polyphenols found in green tea, red wine and dark chocolate. Dissolving polyphenol powders in water with a small amount of salt instantly produces transparent coatings that kill bacteria on contact, have antioxidant qualities and are non-toxic. The sticky nature of polyphenols and the low cost of materials could open the door to a wide range of uses for these coatings. Apparently the coatings can stick to virtually any surface, even Teflon, and are only 20 to 100 nanometers thick, potentially making them ideal for use in a whole range products. "We discovered a way to apply coatings onto a variety of surfaces that takes advantage of the sticky properties of the polyphenol compounds," said Phillip B. Messersmith, Professor of Biomedical Engineering, who led the research. "It's a very simple dip-coating process, and the antibacterial and antioxidant properties are preserved in the coating. One could take a stainless-steel hip implant apply the process to it, and the coating that emerges spontaneously and with no other modifications will kill bacteria and quench reactive oxygen species, such as free radicals."

The results if commercially exploited may have a chance for use in high value applications like coating of biomedical parts for implantation in human body. However to expect that it will find application in food industry as an antibacterial coating may be far fetched. After all tea as well as red wines are food materials that cannot be diverted for non food applications without disturbing the market equilibrium. Probably many non food antioxidants available in plenty in nature could be a better and more appropriate source material for preparing the antibacterial solution. The suggestion that such poly phenols in salt solution can be a good antioxidant product for human consumption is untenable because salt is a substance not recommended for consumption in high quantities because of its role in disease like CVD, kidney malfunction and blood pressure. Nonetheless from the scientific curiosity angle this is a good discovery with some future potential. 


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