Research Professor, Docent Kirsi Mikkonen, e-mail kirsi.s.mikkonen(at)helsinki.fi, Tel. +358 50 318 5574
Researcher Kirsi Mikkonen from the Academy of Finland and University of Helsinki researches galactoglucomannan of pine, that is, pine gum. It could be an option for commonly used gum arabic.
Gum arabic is a plant-based gum made of sap of two different acacia species. It is used, for example, as glue, binder of medicine and dye and as an additive for foodstuffs. Instead of plants, gum can also be manufactured synthetically using petroleum.
Galactoglucomannan is a hemicellulose of pine. Previously no effective method existed to extract hemicellulose from trees, and the processes were very difficult to carry out. Company BLN Woods has developed a method which enables separating all different ingredients for converting.
The method uses underpressure in order to keep the structure of hemicellulose in order to avoid chopping or polymerizing it. Costs of the process are low and there are plenty of usages for the end product.
According to Mikkonen, pine gum is a very multi-functional material. ”It enhances both physical and chemical stability. This is why it is able to replace many additives, for example in food industry, pharmacy and cosmetics,” Mikkonen said in an article published by the Academy of Finland.
The product has been used, for example, to make pine emulsion, which has the same color as vanilla sauce and is mildly scented. Pine gum could be used as a stabilizer in foodstuffs, such as salad dressings, soft drinks, in detergents, coatings, chemicals, pharmacy products and medicine.
Use of pine gum could reduce the need of gum arabic and create pine gum export from Finland, said Mikkonen in an article by Finnish broadcasting company Yle.
Several companies, such as Fazer, Valio and Stora Enso are involved in Mikkonen’s project in product model testing.