Nanotechnology and Food
Did you know that nanotechnology can affect the way we eat our food? From everything from food safety to changing how nutrients are delivered through our body, nanotechnology can do it. In fact, nano-sized biosensors have already been created to detect salmonella on your food, which has salmonella antibodies. The antibodies hook onto the bacteria and a dye on the biosensor fluoresces, allowing you to detect the presence of salmonella. This is an insane innovation, yet it’s quite simple. Being able to detect dangerous diseases in our food is insanely important.
Recently, I and some of my friends researched and made a presentation detailing nanotech and how it can be used in our food, and I wanted to share it with you. So without further adieu, let’s dive into it!
First up: What Is Nanotechnology?
Nanotechnology can be explained as the study of science, engineering, and technology at the nanoscale, which is about 1 to 100 nanometers.
To visualize how small a nanometer is, if you take the thickness of a piece of paper, that's not 1000, not 10,000, but 100,000 nanometers! A different way of visualizing it is that if a nanometer was the size of a marble, one meter would be the size of the earth.
Nanotechnology and nanoscience are all about manipulating atoms themselves, engineering at the atomic scale. Nanomaterials and particles act differently than they normally would, and scientists take advantage of some of these that have enhanced properties, such as high strength, lighter weight, or changes in chemical reactivity.
Since nanotech is so small, you have to do the most with what you can. Self-cleaning glass has been created through the use of nanoparticles, wherein UV radiation hits the glass, energizing the nanoparticles and breaking them down, loosening any dirt on the glass.
Nanoparticles may be simple, but they can do amazing things.
How can it be used in food?
One way is by nanoencapsulation, which involves taking a nanoparticle, such as some desired nutrients, and packing them into an outer shell to make nanocapsules. This can be used to deliver drugs to targeted parts of the body, and here, deliver nutrients to the body far more efficiently.
Another way it can be used is in salt. Researchers are developing nano-sized grains of salt. Why? Because carving up a grain of salt into a thousand tiny pieces means much more surface area, and because there is more surface area for every grain of salt you cut up, you require less salt overall for any given food, which is good for people with high blood pressure who are watching their salt intake.
You could also reduce the fat in food while keeping the taste! Mayonnaise has many nanosized fat droplets that divide the water into pockets, so it is more thick and creamy. However, you can replace the inside of the fat droplets with water, keeping the familiar taste and feel of mayonnaise with much less fat, which is a big plus if you are watching your fat intake.
Is it safe?
Nanofood enthusiasts are determined not to make any mistakes. Back when GM (genetically modified) foods came out, they were pushed to market with minimal testing, and it was disastrous. Foods utilizing nanotech must be regulated, so not just any nanotech food can be pushed to the market right away.
Soon foods will have to have labels that let buyers know they use nano-materials, and more safety studies on ingesting nanoparticles are needed. But right now you can likely rest assured that when they come to market they will be safe for consumption.
As Diana Bowman, an expert in public health at the University of Michigan says, “it is vital to investigate and debate the use of nanotechnologies in food now, rather than waiting until there is a consumer backlash.”
- Nanotechnology is the study of science, technology, and engineering at the nanoscale.
- Nanoscience and nanoengineering focus on manipulating atoms themselves, doing work on the atomic scale.
- Nanomaterials can act differently than their macro-sized counterparts, such as high strength, lighter weight, or changes in chemical reactivity.
- Nanotechnology is now being looked at as a way to enhance our foods and make them more healthy without changing how we perceive them.
- We could make foods less fatty, make food taste just as salty with less salt, or even encapsulate vitamins or proteins, delivering them directly through the body.
- Currently, regulations and rules are starting to be looked at and put in place, to make sure that nano foods will be safe when they come to the market.
If you enjoyed reading this article or have any suggestions or questions, let me know by commenting or clapping! You can find me on LinkedIn, or on my website for my latest work and updates, or reach out directly on my email!