During this cycle, Dr Andrea Scotti from RWTH Aachen University, and Dr Judith Houston from ESS, came to ISIS to study the nanostructure of pasta. More specifically, they were looking at the different structures created by gluten-free spaghetti, in comparison to gluten-containing spaghetti.
Looking at the components, we know that pasta is made up mostly of starch and gluten. Starch forms into blobs that expand when the pasta is boiled. Gluten, however, is more of a stringy mesh. It tangles around the balls of starch, preventing them from falling to pieces upon expansion. Gluten-free options need to overcome this problem through other means. Currently, these means seem to leave the pasta with a strange chewy texture, for a generally less appealing experience in comparison to gluten-containing options.
With the aim to improve this, these researchers started the ball rolling on our SANS2D beamline, investigating the nanostructure of these pastas. Their experiment involved comparing spaghetti when it was raw, boiled and boiled with salt. The researchers cooked the spaghetti in D2O, to allow the visualisation of the structure, in one of our labs (see photo). y then sliced the spaghetti into tiny pieces and squashed it into the sample chamber ready for the beam to hit. Their data is currently being analysed and we look forward to hearing the outcomes of this experiment soon! Hopefully, the results from this and any future experiments will shed some light on the changes that occur on the nanoscale inside gluten-free spaghetti, so improvements can be made to gluten-free substitutes.