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Newly Developed X-Ray Vision Ideal For Quality Assurance For New Products

Update Date: Jul 24, 2014 12:11 PM EDT

A researcher has developed a new technique that has the capacity to recognize advanced biological molecules i.e., proteins. It uses X-rays for the rapid identification of substances present in an indeterminate powder.

The technique has the enormous potential in both food production and the pharmaceutical industry.

The technique dubbed 'powder diffraction' involves subjecting a sample to an intense beam of X-rays. When the rays hit the sample, it disseminate the same way as light does when reflected by a disco ball, the press release added.

The process generates a pattern that reflects the structure of the material. Like fingerprints, each individual substance has its own unique pattern which makes it readily identifiable when the results are run through a database.

As of now, powder diffraction is used to identify simple substances like sugar, salts and minerals. However the idea is to use the same technique to characterize advanced biological molecules such as proteins.

“I have tested different types of infant milk formula, protein powders and detergents. By taking a small sample of powder and bombarding it with X-rays, I can determine what substances the powder contains—and in what concentrations—within ten minutes. In addition, the analysis will typically reveal some information about how the product was made,” said Christian Grundahl Frankær, a Postdoc at DTU Chemical Engineering, in the press release.

Encouraging results are only the beginning, Frankær added.

“What we want to do now is to test how far we can push the method. We have already established that it works on proteins, but will it also work on other complex products? And what happens if we take the samples to the synchrotron in Grenoble, where the X-ray beam is a million times more powerful than the one we have in our laboratory?” asked Frankær.

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