London, January 12 : An alumnus of Madras University and Mysore University edible antifreeze that can keep ice cream tasty and smooth, besides preventing other frozen foods from being ruined.
Food chemist Srinivasan Damodaran, who is currently associated with the University of Wisconsin-Madison, has revealed that he made his antifreeze by partly digesting gelatin using an enzyme called papin, which is found in papaya.
He says that gelatin is much more effective at preventing ice crystals from growing to 40 microns or larger from around 15 to 20 microns in width, as water melts and refreezes, while ice cream is transported home from the store.
Using a process called gel chromatography, Damodaran separated the partly digested gelatine into proteins in different weight ranges. He later added the gelatine samples to different batches of identical ice cream frozen to -40 degree Celsius.
The researcher examined each batch alongside a control sample on a microscopic slide. The temperature of the ice cream samples was then varied between -14 and -12 degree Celsius, once every 3 minutes for 21 minutes. The samples were scrutinised again thereafter.
The study showed that the lightest proteins most strongly prevented ice crystals from growing.
Upon studying the amino acid sequence of the most effective protein, Damodaran found that it was very similar to that of a natural antifreeze found in snow fleas, a species of springtail that remains active throughout winter.
Damodaran says that the new antifreeze has similar physical properties, and probably acts the same way.
He, however, admitted that these proteins were not ready to be launched in the market as yet.
"It will be some years before these (proteins) reach the market. But hopefully they will bring benefits and better ice cream to everyone," New Scientist magazine quoted Damodaran as saying.