How Does Semiconductor Taste?
Silicon, a metalloid widely abundant in the Earth's crust, is already used in semiconductors, porcelain, and concrete. In light of growing research showing silicon's potential benefit to bone and connective tissue health, it may also have a future as a food additive. For this reason, researchers at pSivida Corporation recently conducted silicon taste tests. Their findings were published July 20th in the SpringerOpen journal Nanoscale Research Letters.
The researchers utilized two mediums to administer the tests, water and chewing gum. Six types of silicon powders were dissolved in both water and gum at varying concentrations and given to subjects. Subjects were asked to swill the water solutions in their mouth for thirty seconds and to chew the gums for a full two minutes. For both chewing gum and water, subjects appraised taste and aftertaste. Subjects also graded the varying gum samples for grittiness, seeing as how they were actually chewing microscopic pieces of metal. (Below Figure: Chewing gum pellets composed of varying types of silicon powders. A: Bulk; B: Mesoporous; C: Silica)
Overall, in water, subjects described oxidized mesoporous silicon as having a rather "bland" taste, while bulk silicon and silica sported "chalky" or "metallic" tastes. Porous silica gums consistently had a "chalky" taste, while other varieties were mostly tasteless.
Additional research needs to be conducted on the actual benefits of adding silicon to food products, but it appears, the researchers conclude, that in moderate concentrations and small microparticle sizes, silicon doesn't taste that bad.
Source: "Taste and mouthfeel assessment of porous and non-porous silicon microparticles." Shabir QSA, Skaria CS, O Brien HOB, Loni A, Barnett C and Canham L Nanoscale Research Letters 2012, 7:407 (20 July 2012)