What Is Silicon Dioxide?

What Is Silicon Dioxide?

Silicon Dioxide: What Is It? What’s It Good For? And Do We Need It?

Ever wondered what that small packet you find in food or supplement bottles is? You know, the one that says, “Do Not Eat” even though it’s found with your food? Well, that’s called a desiccant. Its primary purpose is to absorb excess moisture so fine food particles don’t clump together (the way sugar does).

Its active ingredient? Silicon dioxide, more commonly known as silica, but what is silicon dioxide? Let’s delve into this and other questions.

What is Silicon Dioxide?

Chemically, silicon dioxide is a type of quartz, the fusion of the elements silicon (Si) and oxygen (O). It is one of the more abundant substances on Earth, making up 59 percent of the crust. If you’ve been to the beach before, then you will have seen silica. It’s just that it has a different name there: sand

And even though it’s a “rock,” you’ll be surprised to know that silica is also found in organisms, too. Plants, animals and, yes even us, have trace amounts of it. Chances are you’ve eaten it regularly since everything from vegetables to oats have it.

What Does It Do?

Silicon dioxide is a common substance used in a variety of industrial applications. Everything from ceramics to glass use it in one form or another. In the food industry, silica is most often used as an anti-caking agent. Many foodstuffs, such as sugar and flour, tend to clump together in moist conditions.

Moisture also promotes bacterial growth and can shorten a product’s shelf life. Silicon dioxide prevents this by absorbing excess moisture from the atmosphere. It can be mixed straight into the food or separated into its own container, as is the case with the desiccant pack.

Is Silicon Dioxide Natural or Synthetic?

Since it’s pretty abundant, commercial silica is often derived from natural sources. Natural quartz is obtained from sand mining and then crushed or milled. Further processing may be needed to create purer or finer silica, depending on the end-use.

Is Silicon Dioxide Safe to Consume?

With an artificial sounding name like silicon dioxide, people tend to wonder if it’s safe to eat. The good news is that it is. Health Canada has classified silicon dioxide as food safe. As we mentioned, it is a naturally occurring substance in the body. Besides, any excess silica that we accumulate in the body doesn’t stay there. Instead, it’s flushed out through our kidneys.

It’s also worth knowing that there are many types of silicon dioxide. Rest assured that the kind added into our food isn’t the same one used in making glass, for instance.

Is Silicon Dioxide a Carcinogen?

You might encounter some experts saying that silicon dioxide can cause cancer. While this is true, that only occurs when you breathe in high doses of it. This is the case with certain occupations, such as mining, construction, and sandblasting. When found in food, silica can’t cause lung damage.

Final Thoughts

Silicon dioxide might sound intimidating, but it’s not. It’s a perfectly safe food additive that contributes to food lasting longer and being more reliable to consume.

What Is the Difference Between Blending and Mixing?

What Is the Difference Between Blending and Mixing?

Aren’t Mixing and Blending the Same Thing?

Blending and mixing are two of the most critical processes in food manufacturing and other industries. They are used in everything from the cement builders used to make your house to the loaf of bread you ate this morning.

They usually mean the same thing in everyday language, but did you know that blending and mixing are actually two distinct operations?

Although the differences are very subtle, they do have something in common. Both combine two or more different substances, but the similarities end there.

Is there really a difference between blending and mixing?

Mixing is generally concerned with many different substances put together to form a new product. In the context of food, mixing involves both dry and wet ingredients.

Think of when you mix water, yeast, sugar, and flour to make a dough. Or moist ground beef and dry breadcrumbs to make meatballs. The mixing operation is usually a comprehensive one—you want to make the result as homogenous as possible.

Other food products that use mixing include:

  • Noodles
  • Bread
  • Sauces
  • Canned soup

What is the process of blending?

Blending entails mixing only dry ingredients. Think of how pancake mix is made. It’s usually a blend of many different dry components (flour, salt, sugar, starches, etc.). Or how we describe tea or coffee “blends,” which is nothing more than combining different varieties of tea leaves or coffee beans together. Powder blending is used to create fine powders with the perfect ratio of ingredients.

Sometimes blending involves a small amount of liquid, such as when producing granules. So long as the majority of the ingredients are dry, it is still a blending process.

Blending is a gentler process than mixing. The aim is to create a uniform distribution of each component in the final blend. It’s not to mish-mash all the ingredients together. Most industrial-grade blenders make it a point to minimize ingredient contact with the blender’s blades.

Examples of products which are made by blending include:

  • Powder Mixes (such as pancake mix)
  • Spices (such as curry)
  • Granules (such as instant coffee)
  • Powdered drinks

Why is blending necessary?

Proper blending is a necessary process to create a consistent product. Imagine if the process of blending cake mix wasn’t adequately controlled. You might get an overly sweet cake with one box, and a coarse, gritty product with another. This is because the ratio of flour or sugar would vary wildly with each batch produced if they weren’t blended well.

To achieve proper blending, using the right equipment is essential. There are lots of options on the market, but one of the most effective is the convection blender.

This machine uses a rotating element, such as a ribbon, to rapidly move the dry ingredients around. Unlike your blender at home, it doesn’t use blades that “cut” through the particles and thus is not as damaging. Each batch is also electronically controlled to ensure proper consistency.

Final Thoughts

The next time you make your instant coffee or sip that afternoon tea, be sure to appreciate the magic of blending and mixing!