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Gastrophysics: Statistical thermodynamics of biomolecular denaturation and gelation from the Kirkwood-Buff theory towards the understanding of tofu

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)128-139
Number of pages12
JournalFood Hydrocolloids
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2017


Sugars, alcohols, or salts, when added to food, affects the heat denaturation of proteins and the sol-gel transition of macromolecules. Such an effect of cosolvents has long been known and exploited; yet understanding how they work at a molecular level has been a matter of scientific debate for decades, because of the lack of a definitive theory which can provide a microscopic explanation. Here we show that a rigorous statistical thermodynamic theory, the Kirkwood-Buff (KB) theory, provides not only a long-awaited microscopic explanation but also a clear guideline on how to analyze experimental data. KB theory synthesizes the classical Wyman-Tanford formula and partial molar volume, and enables the determination of biomolecule-water and biomolecule-cosolvent interactions solely from experimental data. Nothing beyond the materials in introductory physical chemistry or chemical thermodynamics textbooks is necessary to follow the derivations presented in this review.

    Research areas

  • Cosolvents, Gelation, Hydration, Kirkwood-Buff theory, Statistical thermodynamics, Tofu



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