Fun With Food Analysis At #ACSAnaheim

If you’ve been in grad school or worked in a lab, you’ve been there: sitting around, waiting for your reaction or experiment to do its thing, bored, listless. Then your eye lights on a can of Sprite. Then the pH meter. Then back to the Sprite. The wheels start turning, and before you know it, you’re testing all of your labmates’ drinks and making bar charts.

Or maybe that’s just me.

For Christopher J. Hudalla, it’s all in a day’s work. Hudalla, a senior scientist at Waters Corp., in Milford, Mass., gave a presentation today at the ACS national meeting in Anaheim about the development of a chromatographic stationary phase for separating a battery of simple sugars. After putting his “bridged ethyl hybrid” phase through the standard paces, demonstrating that it indeed separated a mixture of fructose, glucose, sucrose, lactose, and maltose quite nicely, Hudalla got serious.

Hudalla's lunch tests. Credit: Chris Hudalla/Waters

He wanted to throw everything he could think of at the stationary phase, which is proprietary but has a silane on one end and an amide on the other, to test just how robust it actually is. So he began taking samples of his coworkers’ lunches, he said. Everyday, there was a new food item to test. It became a ritual—a lunchtime club—and Hudalla amassed a “large stack of chromatograms of some very strange things,” he told me. “My colleagues wondered why I had an analysis for Asian dipping sauce.”

Then came the beer. Why not test the components of beer during brewing? Hudalla followed the sugar components of a beer mix during mashing, a process in which malt enzymes break down grain starches into sugars (typically maltose), and during fermentation, when the maltose is fermented by yeast to produce alcohol.

Hudalla's "frivolous" beer tests. Credit: Chris Hudalla/Waters

Turns out that the stationary phase does what it’s supposed to: Hudalla didn’t find any products for which it couldn’t separate those simple sugars cleanly. And although some of the tests seemed frivolous at the time, he said, a major beer manufacturer has since expressed interest in the method.

Got any food and/or strange product tests to share that you’ve carried out in the lab? Post them here.

Author: Lauren Wolf

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