Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Chemist develops X-ray vision for quality assurance

Date:
July 24, 2014
Source:
Technical University of Denmark
Summary:
A researcher has developed a method that uses X-rays for the rapid identification of substances present in an indeterminate powder. The new technique has the capacity to recognize advanced biological molecules such as proteins. The method therefore has enormous potential in both food production and the pharmaceutical industry, where it opens up new opportunities for the quality assurance of protein-based medicines, for example.

The new method makes it possible to establish very quickly what substances—proteins and others—a product in powder form contains. For example, a quick analysis of a washing powder developed for the Danish market revealed a high level of zeolite material, which is used to bind limestone from the hard water that is so prevalent in Denmark, while a sample from Morocco contained none of this material. Analysis of another washing powder revealed that ‘active oxygen’ is simply the compound sodium percarbonate, i.e. bonded hydrogen peroxide.
Credit: Iben Julie Schmidt

A DTU researcher has developed a method that uses X-rays for the rapid identification of substances present in an indeterminate powder. The new technique has the capacity to recognize advanced biological molecules such as proteins. The method therefore has enormous potential in both food production and the pharmaceutical industry, where it opens up new opportunities for the quality assurance of protein-based medicines, for example.

It is seldom sufficient to read the declaration of contents if you need to know precisely what substances a product contains. In fact, to do this you need to be a highly skilled chemist or to have genuine X-ray vision so that you can look directly into the molecular structure of the various substances. Christian Grundahl Frankær, a Postdoc at DTU Chemical Engineering, is almost both, as he has developed a method that allows him to use X-rays to look deep into biological samples.

The 'fingerprints' of a substance

The technique is called 'powder diffraction' and involves subjecting a sample to an intense beam of X-rays. When the beam hits the sample, it disseminates in the same way as light does when reflected by a disco ball. This generates a pattern that reflects the structure of the material. Each individual substance has its own unique pattern -- a kind of 'fingerprint' -- which makes it readily identifiable when the results are run through a database.

Powder diffraction is currently used to identify simple substances such as sugar, salts and minerals, but the idea of using the same technique to characterize advanced biological molecules such as proteins is truly innovative. It is for this reason that the method has enormous potential in both food production and the pharmaceutical industry, where more and more attention is being devoted to protein-based medicines.

"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," relates Christian Grundahl Frankær. The method is therefore ideal for quality assurance of new products on the market.

Crystal forms determine properties

Proteins are large molecules with complex 3D structures. The shape of a protein -- or its crystal structure -- can significantly alter its properties. A protein such as insulin may have many different crystal forms, and the form the substance appears in may affect its solubility or level of activity. This, in turn, may be of significance to how the protein will react when it enters the human body. For this reason, it makes a lot of sense to analyse the crystal forms of different proteins both during production and in the quality assurance of protein-based medicines, but this has simply not been practical nor financially viable until now.

Christian Grundahl Frankær explains: "We have now demonstrated that powder diffraction can actually be used on biological substances such as proteins. The results are not as detailed as in single crystal diffraction, which makes it possible to decode the entire structure of the protein, but they do allow us to 'lift fingerprints' quickly and easily so that we can identify the protein and its crystal structure. This is valuable knowledge when you are working with the production of proteins."

Quick answer

The method has great potential in the context of optimizing both quality and production processes in all production set-ups that involve solid substances. Applying the new method will make it possible to check continuously for changes in -- or transformations of -- different substances used in the production process.

"The advantage of our method is that it allows you to take samples directly from a production line. You then have the results within 15 minutes and can tell precisely what crystalline material is involved. In addition, the X-ray beams we use can easily be generated using standard laboratory equipment," relates Christian Grundahl Frankær.

The encouraging results are only the beginning: "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?" asks Christian Grundahl Frankær.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Technical University of Denmark. The original article was written by Katrine Krogh-Jeppesen. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Technical University of Denmark. "Chemist develops X-ray vision for quality assurance." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 24 July 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/07/140724094310.htm>.
Technical University of Denmark. (2014, July 24). Chemist develops X-ray vision for quality assurance. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 18, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/07/140724094310.htm
Technical University of Denmark. "Chemist develops X-ray vision for quality assurance." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/07/140724094310.htm (accessed September 18, 2014).

Share This



More Matter & Energy News

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Stocks Hit All-Time High as Fed Holds Steady

Stocks Hit All-Time High as Fed Holds Steady

AP (Sep. 17, 2014) — The Federal Reserve signaled Wednesday that it plans to keep a key interest rate at a record low because a broad range of U.S. economic measures remain subpar. Stocks hit an all-time high on the news. (Sept. 17) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Space Race Pits Bezos Vs Musk

Space Race Pits Bezos Vs Musk

Reuters - Business Video Online (Sep. 16, 2014) — Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos' startup will team up with Boeing and Lockheed to develop rocket engines as Elon Musk races to have his rockets certified. Fred Katayama reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
MIT's Robot Cheetah Unleashed — Can Now Run, Jump Freely

MIT's Robot Cheetah Unleashed — Can Now Run, Jump Freely

Newsy (Sep. 16, 2014) — MIT developed a robot modeled after a cheetah. It can run up to speeds of 10 mph, though researchers estimate it will eventually reach 30 mph. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Manufacturer Prints 3-D Car In Record Time

Manufacturer Prints 3-D Car In Record Time

Newsy (Sep. 15, 2014) — Automobile manufacturer Local Motors created a drivable electric car using a 3-D printer. Printing the body only took 44 hours. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins