Review of Reviews

Corn Is Used In Many Ways

Industrial Products From This Grain Many and Varied; Use is Increasing

September 1 1934
Review of Reviews

Corn Is Used In Many Ways

Industrial Products From This Grain Many and Varied; Use is Increasing

September 1 1934

Corn Is Used In Many Ways

Industrial Products From This Grain Many and Varied; Use is Increasing

INCREASING use of corn in industry the number of products which can be manufactured from it is pointed out by Scientific American as follows:

Corn, our major agricultural crop, moves steadily toward industrialization. Ever since chemists found the way to break down the kernel into its components, the golden grain has been playing an increasingly important rôle away from the farm. Today, about two million tons undergo factory treatment. The products derived from it are used in more than thirty industries and further penetration is by no means remote.

The refining of corn yields both edible and industrial products, all rather closely allied. The public knows only a few—-com starch, table syrup and cooking oil but inedible products figure just as prominently in everyday use. The dextrins and starches, of which there are a great variety, permeate industry more thoroughly than the edible products, though they account for a smaller tonnage.

The process used in refining corn is largely mechanical, but surprisingly complete.

The corn kernel has three main parts, the endosperm containing starch, gluten, and solubles; the hull which is chiefly cellulose; and the germ which yields oil and fibrous material. The refiner begins by softening the grain in water and pulling it apart. The hull is shredded, the endosperm broken up, and the germ left intact to float off. From this germ comes an oil used by soap manufacturers, producers of artificial leather, makers of lacquers, varnishes, and photographic film. Refining the oil makes it edible and it reaches the market as a ax>king and salad oil.

With the germ removed and some of the solubles recovered from the water of separation, the refining process treats the disintegrated kernel to free it of all substances and leave starch and gluten. These are separated by means of a settling process. Gluten so obtained is used to provide the protein element in stock feed while the starch is held for further treatment.

Starch is the “Mother Lode" of the grain. It gave rise to the refining industry and still remains the principal product in the sense that it is the base component. From rawstarch are derived the food starches, the pearl, thin-boiling, crystal, powdered, and lump starches; the gums and dextrins; and finally the sugars and syrups. Gums and dextrins are products of conversion. They are made by treating starch with dilute acid and then neutralizing the arid when the chemical change has progressed to a specified point. The time factor in conversion determines the type of dextrin produced and there are many types, each developed for a specified use in industry.

As a food, com starch is too well known to need comment. The other starches, together with the dextrins and gums, play an essential but less well-known part in modern life. When they are shipped from the refiners they may turn up as a constituent of adhesives, explosives, foundry cores, aslx'stos products, cordage, cosmetics, colors, fireworks, or oil cloth. Starch makes an excellent “finisher,” hence it goes to laundries, to the makers of textiles who use it to give the proper texture to their goods, and to the producers of ixijx-r who use it for sizing.

To convert starch into sugars and syrups the refiner uses hydrochloric acid just as the human body does. He heats starch in the presence of this acid and by varying the time, pressure, and temperature controls he can produce any of several sugars and syrups. Completely converted starch makes dextrose or * grape sugar,’ so-called because

it occurs normally in fruits and vegetables. This sugar is identical in chemita: nature with the sugar found in 5he human system and is unique in that it can b? asrimilateo by the Ixxly without change, whereas ordinary sugars (sucrose) must be converted into dextrose before assimilation. Crude com sugar has several industrial uses. The most striking one is in the manufacture of rayon, where it improves the quality of the textile. Refined dextrose and syrups are used in fixxls, principally as a sweetening agent in ice (Team, candy and bakery products.

After noting the array of derivatives and their wide application in industry it seems justifiable to term com an industrial product. On the other hand, relating the volume of com refined to the volume of com grown makes the word “industrial” almost a misnomer. The corn crop of the United States averages about 2,7(X),(XX),(XX) bushels and of this huge volume only 75,000,OCX) bushels, or a little less than three per cent is refined. Such figures as these prove that com is still overwhelmingly a food crop almost untouched by industry. The real significance that corn now sides with industry comes from interpretation of other figures.

If farm consumption and direct food uses of com were on the increase, it would lxfarfetched to stress the importance of industrial use (employing the word industrial to embrace food use after factory treatment). But the corn crop has long held at 2,700,000,(XX) bushels and consumption on a per capita basis has been declining for thirty years. It is a fact that the crop volume of 1(X)2 would be adequate for today’s population. Added to this decline in direct use there is a falling off in potential demand because our people have changed their dietary habits. The public has been cutting down on meat eating and this presages a stationary if not reduced demand for cornfed hogs and cattle which now consume fifty

per cent of all com raised. Corn has failed utterly to keep pace with population growth and the slowing down of this growth, already manifested, holds no promise for an expanding market.

The expansion of the use of com derivatives does not wait wholly on research. Experience in the handling of dextrose in several industries has been of sufficient duration to prove practicability and to warrant broader use immediately. Candy manufacturers have discovered that ordinary sugar can be replaced with dextrose to the extent of 40 per cent with improvement in the consistency and flavor of the product. Bakers now use dextrose and could use more generally; makers of jams, jellies and canned fruit can work out formulas combining dextrose with cane sugar in varying amounts to get maximum benefit. In the production of ice cream about twenty per cent of sugar requirements can be met advantageously with dextrose, while a fiftyfifty blend of cane sugar and dextrose is considered meritorious in condensed milk.

Certain types of foods can be prepared w-ith com syrups even better than with dextrose. This syrup contains carbohydrates, dextrose, maltose, and dextrine.

If it is the food industries which offer the greatest possibilities for the immediate growth in use of corn, it is food again which gives promise for the future. Ultimately dextrose may have a large household use. While it is less sweet than ordinary sugar it has its place, and household economists are busy finding it. And there is an almost untouched market in the manufacture of soft drinks, now opened with the discovery that carbonated beverages can be given a better body and more natural flavor when dextrose is used.

At present only about 27,000,000 bushels are used for alcohol manufacture since im]x>rted blackstrap molasses is now the main source and a cheaper one.