Technology Information

ABOUT Amorfast®

Overview of Temperature-Controlled Amorphization Milling Using Amorfast®

Amorfast®, the temperature-controlled milling technology developed in the Nishioka Laboratory at Yamagata University, can amorphize starch and cellulose instantly and without water.
On this page,

● What is pre-gelatinization/amorphization
● Features of Amorfast®
● Characteristics of materials amorphized with Amorfast®

we provide an explanation about both starch and cellulose:
We also introduce the research of Professor Nishioka of Yamagata University, the creator of this technology.


What is Amorphization/Pre-Gelatinization of Starch? – Making Raw Starch More Usable

Starch, which is a major constituent of grains and tubers, is an important nutrient and a source of carbohydrates to generate energy. However, it is hard to digest in its raw form. This is because raw starch is in a hard and sturdy crystalline state, which makes it difficult for digestive enzymes to penetrate.
Humans have become able to effectively utilize starch as an energy source by loosening the crystalline structure of starch for better digestibility through heating with water, as typified by cooking rice and baking bread. This “loosening of the crystalline state” is referred to as amorphization. In the case of starch, it is also called pre-gelatinization or gelatinization because it becomes slimy when it contains moisture.

Generally, the pre-gelatinization of starch by heating with water for a certain period of time is something that requires a lot of energy, time, and effort.

Also, pre-gelatinized starch (for example, cooked rice) returns to a poorly digestible crystalline state over time due to temperature drop and drying. This is called retrogradation (recrystallization or aging).


Amorfast® amorphizes starch instantly and without water – saving energy and achieving highly productive amorphization –

Amorfast®, the amorphization technology of Alphatech, amorphizes starch instantly without water by milling while controlling temperature. As there is no need to heat water, amorphization is achieved energy-efficiently. It has superior productivity because amorphization can be done in an instant.
This technology is named Amorfast® from Amorphous + fast, as the change to the amorphous state is extremely rapid.

Amorphized starch powder made with Amorfast® is dry from the beginning, so there is no retrogradation over time. Therefore, it can be stored for a long time while maintaining a high amorphization rate.

In principle, the amorphization with Amorfast® is effective for all types of starch. In addition to grains such as rice and corn, it can also amorphize tubers and beans, making it a versatile technology.

At Alphatech, we have been working on the making the Amorfast® milling machine larger and have succeeded in developing a milling machine with a processing capacity of several hundred kg to several tens of tons per hour according to needs.
Currently, with the subsidy of NEDO (2022 “Research and Development Startup Support Program / Startup Business Promotion Program Using Regional Sleeping Technology Seeds and Energy and Environment Technology Seeds, etc.”), we have been able to manufacture the prototype of a large milling machine. This machine has been in operation since April 2023.


Adding functionality to starch materials with Amorfast®

Starch amorphized with Amorfast® is highly digestible and can be eaten as is. In addition to digestibility, Amorfast® greatly improves absorbency and dispersibility in water, and can also enhance emulsification capability.
For example, normal rice flour does not dissolve in water. It is like water-mixed potato starch, which is smooth, but separates over time. However, pre-gelatinized starch dissolves readily in water and stably disperses in water for a long time. Also, by adjusting the water content, you can adjust the viscosity from a fluid state like porridge or cream to a sticky state like mochi.
As it solidifies when dried, it can also be used as a binder, and it has elasticity when it contains water, so it can be stretched or molded like wheat dough, and it also works to improve formability.

In this way, Amorfast® can add functionality while still retaining its character as a natural material, starch.

For application fields and uses of amorphized starch materials, please see the “Our Business” page.


What is Amorphization of Cellulose? – Enhancing the Utility of Biomass

Cellulose, the main component of wood and grass, has a very robust crystalline structure. This robust characteristic is why wood is useful as a construction material. However, when upcycling biomass, this robustness becomes a hurdle for processing. This is because it is difficult for enzymes and chemicals to act on this strong crystalline structure.
Therefore, to convert cellulose-based biomass into plastics or fuels, a preprocessing step is necessary to increase conversion efficiency. A representative example of preprocessing is breaking down the crystalline structure, that is, amorphization. By breaking down the robust crystalline structure, the reactivity of enzymes and chemicals is enhanced.

General preprocessing of cellulose requires harsh conditions such as high heat and pressure, or treatment with powerful chemicals. As a result, it consumes a lot of energy, or potentially harmful waste is discharged, leading to a process that is not eco-friendly. The high cost is also one reason why the practical application of biomass upcycling has not progressed.


Amorphization of Cellulose by Amorfast® – Eco-friendly and Low-cost Biomass Preprocessing

Amorfast®, the temperature-controlled milling technology, is capable of amorphizing cellulose simply by milling while controlling the temperature. As it’s a dry milling process that does not involve the use of solvents such as water or stirring media, milling efficiency is high, and the process is extremely rapid. Since no chemicals are used, no harmful wastes are produced. It’s an environmentally friendly, high-efficiency biomass preprocessing technology.
  In lab tests, it has been confirmed that the saccharification rate of cellulose changes depending on whether or not the cellulose-based biomass is amorphized, even for biomass ground to the same particle size.

The development of a large-scale milling machine capable of mass production is still to come! However, it is expected that mass, continuous production will be possible by applying the mechanism of large-scale machines designed for starch.

CREATORNishioka Laboratory, Graduate School of Organic Material Science, Yamagata University

Amorfast®, the temperature-controlled milling technology, was developed by the Nishioka Laboratory of the Graduate School of Organic Material Science at Yamagata University. Our lab conducts research based on three pillars: “plastic molding processing,” “rheology,” and “natural polymers.Leveraging the insights from these research areas, the Nishioka Lab successfully developed bread that rises well even with 100% rice flour. Rice flour, which does not contain gluten, does not rise readily unlike wheat. The Nishioka Lab thought about bread in the same way as foamed molding like Styrofoam or sponges, and successfully developed 100% rice flour bread by applying the technique of “mixing low-viscosity and high-viscosity materials” used when foaming plastic. In rice flour bread, the low-viscosity material is regular rice flour, and the high-viscosity material is amorphized rice flour.

Furthermore, we discovered that rice can be amorphized without being cooked by applying heat and shear force simultaneously, and we refined this into a quick, low-cost starch amorphization technology.

The temperature-controlled amorphization milling is the result of research represented by the third pillar, natural polymers, but the research on rheology control also greatly contributes to improving the texture of foods using amorphized milled starch materials. Although currently suspended, we have held recipe contests in the past and developed many gluten-free foods using amorphized rice flour viscosity control technology. In addition, on our YouTube channel “Alphaka Channel,” we upload recipe videos created by our students.

Japanese only

Awards (related to amorphization)

– “Technical Development Award 2017” from The Japanese Society of Applied Glycoscience (joint-winner) (September 2017)
– Yamagata Prefecture Science and Technology Encouragement Award (August 2007) (individual award)