For many people, one of the most annoying headaches in the kitchen is they need to use a detergent to remove oil stains while having safety concerns on the chemical residues left on dishes.
Now this worry can take a back seat with the emerging of a new green detergent formula based on modified starch, which is able to clean dishes or clothes effectively using a patent technology developed by SCUT.
The patent, "a method of starch pretreatment", with a wide prospect of various applications, was granted a Merit Award of the 17th China Patent Awards in 2015.
Contained in large amounts in rice and other staple foods, starch is also extensively used in industries as a raw material, a commodity that produces the highest yield around the globe, and a SCUT research team led by Professor Huang Qiang has made one more good use of this magical substance.
It is a common knowledge that water and oil do not mix, which means oil can be hardly cleaned by water without an agent’s help. To solve this issue, modified starch molecules with improved affinity for oils were introduced as a conciliator to make the two cooperate, and thus to absorb oils during water washing.
“We use modified starch as a surfactant and an emulsifier to make the detergent gentler and non-irritating,” Huang said.
According to him, the effectiveness of this natural ingredient based detergent is not inferior to traditional products using higher fatty acid sodium or sodium alkylbenzene sulfonate as the main ingredient, while starch, being non-toxic, less irritating to the skin and easy to be washed off, ensures better safety and causes no secondary pollution.
Yet the meaning of this technique is much more than a detergent formula. More innovations based on the patent can be applied in other fields such as food and cosmetics industries.
One example is the processing of orange juice drinks: in order to prevent the orange oil from gathering together or being stratified with the water, it requires the orange oil to be embedded using certain emulsifiers, a technology used to be monopolized by US companies.
However, with the help of techniques based on directed modification of starch, the SCUT team has broken this monopoly by developing their own technology that rivals those of US companies, which is stable and efficient to embed various oil-soluble bioactive substances in foods.
Their research dates back to 2007, when they started to tackle multiple issues on the starch modification technology, including its ineffective response, time-consuming process, low stability, and limited applications at the time. Since then, the team has helped many enterprises to break the bottleneck of developing original technologies, creating notable benefits for the economy and the society.
Huang also revealed that the team is currently focusing on a research of using modified starch to absorb oil contamination. The technology, if successfully developed, is expected to be applied in oil spill cleaning and recycling, meanwhile avoiding the secondary pollution caused by conventional chemical processing.
Based on materials from the University News Center
Written by Xu Peimu and Pan Jiaqian
Edited by Xu Peimu