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The Secret to Fresh Fruit: A Silk Coat?

Friday, May 13, 2016

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You’ve heard of corn silk, but what about strawberry silk? Researchers at Tufts University say a thin coating of the material could be just what it takes to keep certain kinds of fruit fresh longer.

A team headed up by postdoctoral associate Benedetto Marelli, Ph. D., recently published a paper in Scientific Reports asserting that by dipping strawberries in a solution of 1 percent silk fibroin protein, they were able to delay the decay of the fruit.

By Silar - CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

A thin coating of silk could be just what it takes to keep strawberries fresh longer.

Fibroin, the researchers explain, is the protein that makes silk so strong—but it’s also biodegradable, and safe for consumption. (The coating had no effect on texture and is odorless, the researchers note, though “taste was not studied.”)

The coating is ultrathin—27 to 35 microns in thickness, according to the researchers. And it made a significant difference: After seven days, while uncoated strawberries were noticeably degrading, those with the silk coating were still in good shape.

"We saw a statistically significant delay in the decay of the fruit," said study co-author Fiorenzo G. Omenetto, Ph. D., of Tufts’ Department of Biomedical Engineering. (Also taking part in the research were Mark A. Brenckle, Ph. D., and David L. Kaplan, Ph. D.)

The study’s authors see uses for the method beyond just preservation, too.

"Various therapeutic agents could be easily added to the water-based silk solution used for the coatings, so we could potentially both preserve and add therapeutic function to consumable goods without the need for complex chemistries,” said lead author Marelli.

In addition to strawberries, the researchers found success preserving bananas with the fibroin coating.


Tagged categories: Colleges and Universities; Research

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