About five years ago an extensive research project was set up to produce the smallest possible organic trace mineral − chelate − with the lowest energy input. Questions asked included: Which are the most suitable molecules? What are potential production processes? and Can the ecological footprint of the process be improved? Extensive basic organic and inorganic chemistry research was conducted. To understand the differences, limitations and impacts of various forms of organic trace elements, it was necessary to take a closer look at their chemistry. All organically bound minerals in animal nutrition belong to the category of complexed minerals. In chemistry the term “complex” is an umbrella term and describes a central atom (e.g., a metal ion) and a surrounding array of bound molecules, ions, or atoms, called ligands. If one ligand has multiple bonds to the central atom, enclosing it such as a claw, it is called a chelate (Fig 1). In animal nutrition organic trace element products are complexes or chelates with ligands such as peptides (partially hydrolysed protein), polysaccharides or amino acids.
Chelates in animal nutrition
Metal proteinates are defined by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) as chelates, where the ligands are amino acids and/or partially hydrolysed protein. These molecules can exceed 800 daltons (a unit of mass widely used in physics and chemistry). Metal amino acid chelates are defined as chelates with one to three moles of hydrolysed amino acids. The AAFCO dictates that the mass of this chelate must not
exceed 800 daltons. The European legislation states that the molecular weight of the chelate should not exceed 1500 daltons. To put these numbers into perspective, we need to remember, that a maximum of three interlinked amino acids (tripeptides) can be transported across the digestive epithelium. Or, to put it differently, the absorbed peptides do not exceed 300 daltons. Otherwise peptides with a larger molecular mass are likely to be digested in order to be absorbed and the chelate structure is destroyed.
Molecules that make a difference
Metal chelates or metal complexes with a specific amino acid have one selected amino acid as a ligand. Usually, a small amino acid such as lysine or glycine is used to achieve a high mineral content in the final product. Metal complexes have an additional anion (e.g. sulphate) as a ligand (Fig 1), which originates from the metal source: a soluble metal source (e.g. Mn-sulphate) is needed for the production of the complex, which takes place in an aqueous medium. The liquid production of organically bound trace minerals requires a great deal of energy. First, the solution needs to be heated for the reaction to take place, then the product has to be spray dried or granulated.
The paradigm shift
This project led to the technique that Phytobiotics uses nowadays: a new, tailor-made manufacturing technique which produces a true chelate in a sustainable way and takes organic trace minerals to the next level. Phytobiotics, in cooperation with a leading German university, developed the High Pressure Fusion Technology (HPFT). This new technology is based on the principle of mechano-chemistry to produce a bis-glycinate, i.e., metal chelate with an amino acid glycine (Fig 1). HPFT (Fig 2) uses the energy of two colliding molecules to form the chelate bonds (the collision takes place between glycine and the metal oxide in a jet mill). The impact separates oxygen from the oxide and hydrogen from the glycine resulting in a positively charged (2+) metal ion and a negative docking point (-) on the glycine molecule. The metal and the glycine react. The glycine layers itself around the metal, so that both the oxygen and the nitrogen of glycine dock to the mineral and close the ring around it. The art of using this
technology is to provide the correct conditions for the raw materials to be able to react. Due to the electrochemical configuration only Zn and Cu are able to form true chelates under HPFT conditions. Different parameters are needed for zinc and copper bis-glycinate to form. As the active molecule is
free of any anion, such as sulphate, the final products contain 29% metal and a minimum of 63% glycine. The production process does not require heat or any additional energy input other than supplying the grinding pressure of the jets. Any excess heat from the grinding gas can be recycled and used in other parts of the production facility, ensuring an efficient and sustainable energy cycle. Bis-Glycinates produced by HPFT are a new generation of organic trace minerals with outstanding mineral content and bioavailability produced in a sustainable mechanochemical production process.
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