January 6, 2016

The Many Uses of Corn Starch


There’s no doubt that corn is one of the world’s most a-maize-ing crops!  It has so many uses that benefit people all around the world.  Over the next few weeks, we will feature a new blog series called, “For the Love of Corn”, where we will look at the six different high-value corn product categories and how they are used.

This week, we will take a look at the high-value corn product category, Corn Starch.

When you think of cornstarch, you probably think of the ingredient that comes out of the pantry only when you’re cooking— that helps thicken soups, stocks and sauces. But that’s not all it’s good for. Indeed, Corn Starch is one of nature's major renewable resources and has a wide array of practical uses outside of the kitchen. As a mainstay of our food and industrial economy, many industries rely heavily on the corn industry—and corn starch—because of its consistent quality and superior performance. From pharmaceuticals to paper, people are often surprised by the number of basic consumer supplies that we use every day that are made from or use corn starch. Below is a description of a few of the most popular uses and applications for corn starch.

Oil Refining & Mining
Corn starches, and dextrins (a roasted starch), are used in hundreds of adhesive applications, while some special types of starches are used in the search for oil as part of the "drilling mud," which cools down superheated oil drilling bits and is used to improve the efficiency of the ore separation processes. Corn-derived ascorbic acid will also be used in oil drilling fluids to protect against iron corrosion and prevent the formation of ferric oxide.

Super Market Staples:
Starch is literally found in thousands of supermarket staples, which are produced using both regular and specially modified starches. Many of today's instant and ready-to-eat foods are produced using starches which enable them to maintain the proper textural characteristics during freezing, thawing and heating.  

Household, Personal & Pharmaceuticals Items:
Starch can be found in a wide variety of household items such as batteries, matches, cleaners, and trash bags. Many personal and health care items have starch in their ingredients, including cosmetics, deodorant, hair-styling products, asprin, and cough drops. In many pharmaceuticals, starches are used to enhance drug delivery systems as binders, diluents, tableting agents and coating agents. They can also be ingredients for formulating intravenous injection solutions and clinical nutrition products.

Starch is one of the most important ingredients in paper. It gives paper its smooth feel, strength, brightness, ink adhesion abilities and erasability improvements. It is also very important in the making of recycled paper because of its bonding strength along with more efficient and cleaner manufacturing.

Super Absorbent:
Corn starch can be manipulated in a variety of ways to produce products that benefit the environment. Corn starch, combined with polymers, creates a super absorbent used in disposable diapers, sanitary napkins, bandages, and baby powders, and can be used to remove water from fuels and to clean up pesticide spills. 

Industrial Chemicals and Plastics:
Today, one of the most promising new markets for corn starches is as raw material for the production of industrial chemicals and plastics—which today, are made from petroleum feedstocks. As petroleum supplies dwindle, the importance of an abundant source of basic industrial chemicals takes on new proportions. Corn industry scientists are at work on new systems for producing industrial necessities from the versatile corn plant.

Learn more about Corn Starches here.

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