This paper describes a novel principle for the separation of wheat flour into starch and gluten in a concentrated medium. The process is based on the use of simple shear flow in a cone-and-cone device. The separation takes place in two steps. Initially, local segregation of gluten and starch phases occurs, leading to formation of macroscopically visible gluten patches distributed throughout the dough. This local segregation can be understood by considering the dough as a visco-elastic matrix containing an inert filler (starch). Further shearing leads to aggregation of those patches and migration (large-scale separation) towards the apex of the cone. As a result, the wheat dough is separated into a protein-poor fraction, containing less than 4% protein, and a protein-rich fraction containing almost 50% protein on a dry weight basis. However, under the process conditions used, upon a very long shearing, a redistribution of the aggregated gluten structures in the starch phase was observed, demonstrating a processing limit for the separation performance. Compared to traditional processing, the separation process presented shows opportunities for producing high quality gluten accompanied with significant water savings. Considering the fact that simple shear flow in steady rate is less harmful to gluten quality, such a separation process could benefit gluten quality.
- radial migration