The increasing demand from consumers and industry for environmentally friendly and renewable
polymers explains the great interest for plant macromolecules as substitutes of synthetic,
petroleum-based, polymers. Besides starch and cellulose which have been extensively studied,
proteins exhibited great potential for biopackaging materials, plastic fims, adhesives and
disposables (1). The use of proteins as film forming agents concerns various applications :
edible films, coatings, soluble films, biodegradable films.
In the present project we want to focus on :
- films for food packaging : special attention will be paid to biodegradable films with
selective permeability for gases like O2 and CO2 or to water and aroma;
- plastic films for agricultural use;
- coatings for different substrates.
The use of wheat gluten as a substitute for synthetic polymers appears as a very interesting option
for many reasons :
1. Wheat is a major crop in Europe, well adapted to the lands and climates, but new
valorisation is desirable to insure continuous development of agriculture;
2. Gluten is available in large amounts at a reasonable cost;
3. The physicochemical properties of wheat gluten make it a raw material particularly
interesting for many non food utilisations, especially for making plastic materials.
Properties of interest are mechanical, film forming, adhesive, and barrier properties.
Protein properties can be well adapted by physical, chemical and enzymatic treatments.
Previous studies have shown that it is possible to make transparant and strong films from gluten.
Sofar, food applications have been considered, but this project will be more focused on the use
of gluten in non-food applications, an unexploited field. In order to reach large scale
applications, more knowledge is needed on the interdependence between protein composition and
structure on the one hand and the processability and the final properties of gluten products on the
other hand. In this project, we propose to examine the suitability of different gluten proteins to
produce plastic materials, especially films, through their physical, chemical and enzymic
The aim of this project is to relate the protein structure and properties at the molecular level
(protein interactions, formation of covalently linked networks) to the macroscopic properties
of the protein network and at least of the final product (mechanical properties, barrier
structure-properties relationships enable to optimize and tailor the protein structure and
processing conditions in order to obtain specific bulk and film properties of the protein. The
properties can be further optimized for each for application.
The research programme was divided into five inter-related tasks with specific objectives :
Task 1. To exploit through fractionation procedures the great differences in the
physicochemical and functional properties between monomeric gliadins and
Task 2. To adapt through chemical, enzymatic modifications or even mutagenesis wheat
proteins to the prepara biomaterials;
Task 3. To get more knowledge about mechanism of protein network formation in
Task 4. To develop wet and low-moisture processes to prepare biomaterials from wheat
5. To characterize wheat proteins materials and model their behaviour to predict their
Funding SchemeCSC - Cost-sharing contracts
6700 AA Wageningen
402 29 Göteborg
63200 Riom Cedex