|Flow of gluten with tunable protein composition: From stress undershoot to stress overshoot and strain hardening |
Ref HAL: hal-03692088_v1
Ref Arxiv: 2207.13542
Ref. & Cit.: NASA ADS
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Understanding the origin of the unique rheological properties of wheat gluten, the protein fraction of wheat grain, is crucial in bread-making processes and has raised questions of scientists for decades. Gluten is a complex mixture of two families of proteins, monomeric gliadins and polymeric glutenins. To better understand the respective role of the different classes of proteins in the supramolecular structure of gluten and its link to the material properties, we investigate here concentrated dispersions of gluten proteins in water with a fixed total protein concentration but variable composition in gliadin and glutenin. Linear viscoelasticity measurements show a gradual increase in the viscosity of the samples as the glutenin mass content increases from 7 to 66%. While the gliadin-rich samples are microphase-separated viscous fluids, homogeneous and transparent pre-gel and gels are obtained with the replacement of gliadin by glutenin. To unravel the flow properties of the gluten samples, we perform shear startup experiments at different shear-rates. In accordance with the linear viscoelastic signature, three classes of behavior are evidenced depending on the protein composition. As samples get depleted in gliadin and enriched in glutenin, distinctive features are measured: (i) viscosity undershoot suggesting droplet elongation for microphase-separated dispersions, (ii) stress overshoot and partial structural relaxation for near-critical pre-gels, and (iii) strain hardening and flow instabilities of gels. We discuss the experimental results by analogy with the behavior of model systems, including viscoelastic emulsions, branched polymer melts, and critical gels, and provide a consistent physical picture of the supramolecular features of the three classes of protein dispersions.