Single kernel wheat hardness and fracture properties in relation to density and the modelling of fracture in wheat endosperm

B J Dobraszczyk, M B Whitworth, J F V Vincent, A A Khan

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The fracture properties of small, cylindrical samples of endosperm machined from single kernels of several varieties of wheat were measured using three methods: compression, wedge fracture and indentation. In addition, dynamic compression tests were also performed in impact loading. Density measurements using a variable density liquid gradient were carried out on machined endosperm samples that had previously been tested for fracture properties, enabling direct comparisons between their density and fracture properties. Within each variety, a distribution of density and hardness values was found. Soft wheat varieties (Riband, Apollo) showed a broad distribution of density with medians in the range 1340 to 1395 kg/m3, whilst hard varieties such as Mercia and a durum wheat exhibited much narrower distributions and higher mean densities, Mercia being skewed towards higher densities, with a median at around 1410 kg/m3. A considerable amount of overlap in density between the soft and hard variety occurred, with both containing a significant proportion of harder and higher density wheat grains, and the major difference appearing to be the presence in the soft wheat of a large proportion of lower density endosperm in the range 1280 to 1360 kg/m3. The differences in density between endosperm samples were attributed to variations in endosperm porosity, which were correlated with the fracture properties of the endosperm. It is proposed that increased levels of porosity weaken the endosperm structure and are responsible in part for soft endosperm texture. The relationship between endosperm density and fracture properties was non-linear, the failure stress and fracture toughness increasing rapidly as the density approached a limiting value corresponding to the density expected for pore-free endosperm. This indicates that endosperm is a notch sensitive material, where the pores concentrate applied stresses and can act as sites of crack initiation. It was shown that the notch sensitivity of endosperm is qualitatively consistent with models of brittle fracture based on fracture mechanics theory, i.e. stress concentration by voids
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)245-263
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Cereal Science
Publication statusPublished - 2002


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