Peter Belton


  • 0.31 Chemistry

Personal profile


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School Position: Emeritus Professor of Chemistry

Peter Belton graduated in chemistry from Chelsea College London, where he also obtained his PhD in 1972 for work on transport properties in liquids. His post-doctoral research was on NMR and was carried out at UEA with Prof. KJ Packer FRS. He joined Unilever research at the Port Sunlight Laboratories in 1974 and, following a brief spell as a visiting professor at the University of Sao Paulo, Brazil, moved to the Institute of Food research to set up a spectroscopy laboratory. During his stay at the Institute he was variously Head of Department, Head of Norwich Laboratory and more lately was head of the Food Materials Division. He joined UEA in February 2001 to take up a joint IFR / UEA Chair in Biomaterials Science.  He is also Senior Visiting Fellow at The Chinese Academy of Sciences in Wuhan.

He is a past President of the Institute of Food Science and Technology and a co- founder of the international conference series ”Applications of Magnetic Resonance in Food Science”.

Main research interests are in the application of spectroscopy to the understanding of the structure function relationships in biopolymer assemblies and carbohydrates and for analysis of complex systems. Principal techniques are solid state NMR, NMR relaxometry, infrared spectroscopy and dielectrics. There is a long standing interest in the structure and dynamics of wheat proteins and other plant storage proteins. Current research activities are to understand the nature of the interactions and stability in pharmaceutical formulations. Other areas include the interaction of biopolymers and water and the use of photothermal methods for analysis. Interest in cereals has extended to the African cereal sorghum; research at the moment is concerned with making biodegradable plastics and other products for pharmaceutical applications from sorghum and other proteins and enhancing the nutritional value of sorghum.

Selected Publications 

X. Dai, J.G. Moffat, A.G. Mayes, M. Reading, D.Q.M. Craig, P.S. Belton and D.B. Grandy
Compositional Analysis of Metal Chelating Materials Using Near-Field Photothermal Fourier Transform Infrared Microspectroscopy
Anal. Chem. 2010, 82, 91
DOI: 10.1021/ac800906t

A Krushelnitsky, T Zinkevich, N Mukhametshina, N Tarasova, Y Gogolev, O Gnezdilov, V Fedotov, P Belton and D Reichert
13C and 15N NMR Study of the Hydration Response of T4 Lysozyme and ?B-Crystallin Internal Dynamics
J. Phys. Chem. B, 2009, 113, 10022
DOI: 10.1021/jp900337x

T Gillgren, SA Barker, PS Belton, DMR Georget and M Stading
Plasticization of Zein – A Thermomechanical, FTIR and Dielectric Study
Biomacromolecules 2009, 10, 1135
DOI: 10.1021/bm801374q

D Reichert, M Kovermann, N Hunter, D Hughes, O Pascui and PS Belton
Slow Dynamics in Glassy ?-Methyl Rhamnopyranoside Studied by 1D NMR exchange experiments
Phys. Chem. Chem. Phys. 2008, 10, 542
DOI: 10.1039/B711113D

Key Research Interests

  • Protein hydration
  • drug delivery systems

Cereal Proteins

  • use of cereal proteins as pharmaceutical exipients


Protein hydration using dielectric and infrared spectroscopy

Collaborators: Abdulla Almutawah, Dr Susan Barker(CAP), Dr Dominique Georget (CAP)

This project is measuring the changes in protein dynamic and structure at a range of levels of protein hydration to understand how the protein behaviour changes with water content. This work is intended to enhance the understanding of the mechanisms by which proteins can be prepared in the dry state for long term storage in pharmaceutical preparations. We have been using Gluten as test material to develop the methods as we have studied related materials by other methods in the past.

The figure illustrates the changes in the low frequency dielectric dispersion as a function of water content in gluten.

Changes in the low frequency dielectric dispersion as a function of water content in gluten

Relevant publications

DMR Georget and PS Belton “Effects of Temperature and Water Content on The Secondary Structure of Wheat Gluten Studied by FTIR Spectroscopy” Biomacromolecules, 2006, 7, 469.

PS Belton, AM Gil and AS Tatham, "1H NMR Relaxation Times Studies of the Hydration of the Barley Protein C-Hordein", J.Chem.Soc.Faraday Trans, 1994, 90, 1099 PS Belton "NMR Studies of Protein Hydration", Prog.Biophys.Molec.Biol, 1994, 61, 61.

PS Belton, IJ Colquhoun, JM Field, A Grant, PR Shewry, AS Tatham and N Wellner, "FTIR and NMR Studies on the Hydration of a High Mr Subunit of Glutenin", Int. J.Biol.Macromol., 1995, 17, 74.

N Wellner, PS Belton and AS Tatham” Fourier Transform IR Spectroscopic Study of Hydration Induced Structure Changes in the Solid State of Omega Gliadins” Biochem J, 1996, 319, 741.

AM Gil, E Alberti, A Tatham, PS Belton, E Humpfer and M Spraul”A Magic Angle Spinning NMR Study of the Hydration of the Wheat Protein Omega Gliadin” Magn. Reson. Chem 1997,35, S101.

PS Belton, AM Gil, A Grant, E Alberti and AS Tatham “ Proton and Carbon NMR Measurements of the Effects of Hydration on the Wheat Protein Omega Gliadin” Spectrochim. Acta A 1998, 54, 955.

PS Belton “Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Studies of the Hydration of Proteins and DNA” Cellular and Molecular Life Sciences 2000, 57, 993.

Use of cereal proteins as pharmaceutical exipients

These projects use a wide variety of techniques to characterise and understand the way in which drugs may be incorperated in matrices which both preserve them and and sure correct delivery to the desired part of the body.

Relevant publications

BT Raimi-Abraham, JG Moffat, PS Belton, SA Barker, DQM Craig “Generation and Characterization of Standardized Forms of Trehalose Dihydrate and Their Associated Solid-State Behavior” Cryst. Growth Des. 2014, 14, 4955−4967


 P Tipduangta, K Takieddin, L Fábián, P S Belton, S Qi, “A New Low Melting-Point Polymorph of Fenofibrate Prepared via Talc Induced Heterogeneous Nucleation” Cryst Growth Des 2015, 15, 5011

  D Codoni,  PS Belton, S Qi, “Nanostructural Analysis of Water Distribution in Hydrated Multicomponent Gels Using Thermal Analysis and NMR Relaxometry.” Mol. Pharm. 2015, 12, 2068

 J Bouman, P S Belton, P Venema, E van der Linden, R de Vries,S Qi, “The Development of Direct Extrusion-Injection Moulded Zein Matrices as Novel Oral Controlled Drug Delivery Systems”  Pharm Res 2015, 32, 2775

  M Alhijjaj, J Bouman, N Wellner, PS Belton, a S Qi, “Creating Drug Solubilization Compartments via Phase Separation in Multicomponent Buccal Patches Prepared by Direct Hot Melt Extrusion–Injection Molding”  Mol. Pharm, 2015, 12 , 4349

 C Rustemkyzy, P S Belton, S Qi, Preparation and Characterization of Ultrarapidly Dissolving Orodispersible Films for Treating and Preventing Iodine Deficiency in the Pediatric Population “J. Agric. Food Chem. 2015, 63, 9831


  M Alhijjaj, M Reading, PS Belton, S Qi, “Thermal Analysis by Structural Characterization as a Method for Assessing Heterogeneity in Complex Solid Pharmaceutical Dosage Forms” Anal. Chem. 2015, 87, 10848



  P Tipduangta, P S Belton, L Fábián, Li Ying Wang, Huiru Tang, M Eddleston, S Qi, “Electrospun Polymer Blend Nanofibers for Tunable Drug Delivery: The Role of Transformative Phase Separation on Controlling the Release Rate” Mol. Pharm, 2016, 13 , 25






Structure and dynamics in gluten proteins

Collaborators: Dr Dominique Georget (CAP), Dr Clare Mills (Institute of Food Research), Prof Peter Shewry (Rothamsted Research), Dr Klaus Wellner (Institute of Food Research),  

Some years ago a theory of gluten viscoelasticity called the “loop and train model” was developed by us. Recent work has concentrated on testing the theory by examining the structural changes and rheology by simultaneously measuring mechanical deformation and changes in the infrared spectra. We have shown that the predicted conversion from beta turn to beta sheet is observed on extension and that there is a cumulative development of sheet with repeated extension. Further work has shown that the details of rheo- spectroscopic behaviour are dependent on both the wheat variety and agronomic history.

The predicted conversion from beta turn to beta sheet

Relevant publications

N Wellner, JT Marsh, AWJ Savage, NG Halford, PR Shewry, ENC Mills and PS Belton “Comparison of Repetitive Sequences Derived from High Molecular Weight Subunits of Wheat Gluten, an Elastomeric Plant Protein” Biomacromolecules, 2006, 7, 1096

PS Belton “New Approaches to Study the Molecular Basis of the Mechanical Properties of Gluten” J Cereal Sci. 2005, 41, 203

N Wellner, E N C Mills, G Brownsey, R. H. Wilson, N Brown, J Freeman, N G Halford, P R Shewry, and P S Belton "Changes in Protein Secondary Structure during Gluten Deformation Studied by Dynamic Fourier Transform Infrared Spectroscopy" Biomacromolecules 2005, 6, 255

KA Feeney, N Wellner, SM Gilbert, NG Halford, AS Tatham, PR Shewry and PS Belton "Molecular Structures and Interactions of Repetitive Peptides Based on Wheat Glutenin Subunits Depend on Chain Length" Biopolymers, 2003, 72,123

SM Gilbert, GR Burnett, ENC Mills, PS Belton, PR Shewry and AS Tatham "Identification of the Wheat Seed Protein CM3 as a Highly Active Emulsifier Using a Novel Functional Screen" J. Agric. Food Chem. 2003, 51, 2019

PR Shewry, S M Gilbert, A W J Savage, A S Tatham, Y-F Wan, P. S. Belton, N Wellner, R D'Ovidio, F Békés, N G Halford "Sequence and Properties of HMW Subunit 1Bx20 from Pasta Wheat (Triticum durum) which is Associated with Poor End Use Properties" Theoretical and Applied Genetics, 2003, 106, 744

N Wellner, D Bianchini, ENC Mills and PS Belton " Effect of Selected Hofmeister Anions on the Secondary Structure of Wheat Prolamins in Gluten" Cereal Chem. 2003, 80, 596

PR Shewry, NG Halford, PS Belton and AS Tatham "The Structure and Properties of Gluten: an Elastic Protein from Wheat Grain" Phil. Trans. Roy. Soc. Lond.B, 2002, 357, 133

PS Belton, K Wellner, ENC Mills, A Grant and J Jenkins, "Do High Molecular Weight Subunits form 'Polar Zippers'?" in: "Wheat Gluten" PR Shewry and AS Tatham eds Royal Society of Chemistry, Cambridge, UK, 2001 p 363

Y Wang, PS Belton, H Bridon, E Garanger, N Wellner, ML Parker, A Grant, P Feillet and TR Noel "Physicochemical Studies of Caroubin: A Gluten Like Protein."J. Agric Food Chem. 2001, 49, 3414

PR Shewry, Y popineau, D Lafiandra and PS Belton "Wheat Glutenin Subunits and Dough Elasticity: Findings of the EUROWHEAT Project" Trends in Food Science and Technology, 2001, 11, 433

K Feeney, AS Tatham, R Wright, G Arnold, PR Shewry, MJ Gooding, RH Ellis, N Wellner and PS Belton, "Effects of Water Availability and Growth Temperature During Wheat Grain Filling on Protein Assembly and Properties in Wheat" Aspects of Applied Biology, 2001, 64, 135

SM Gilbert, N Wellner, PS Belton, JA Greenfield, G Siligardi, PR Shewry and AS Tatham "Expression and Characterisation of a Highly Repetitive peptide derived from a Wheat Seed Storage Protein" Biochim. Biophys. Acta 2000, 1479, 135

PS Belton “On the Elasticity of Wheat Gluten” J. Cereal Sci., 1999, 29, 103

Sorghum proteins

Collaborators: Dr Susan Barker(CAP), Prof Ivonne Delgadillo ( University of Aveiro), Dr Dominique Georget (CAP), Dr Mats Stading ( SIK, Sweden), Prof John Taylor (University of Pretoria)

Sorghum is a cereal indigenous to Africa that withstands both drought and flooding and is well suited to cultivation in sub-Saharan Africa. Together with maize and millet it forms a major component of the local diet, especially of subsistence farmers. The main sorghum varieties grown for human consumption have significant problems of digestibility: uniquely for cereals the protein content of the sorghum flour decreases in digestibility on cooking in water. The degree of decrease reported is between 20 and 50% and represents a significant loss of nutrition for a population that has low protein intake. Our research is concerned to understand this phenomenon with a view to finding routes to increase digestibility.

We are also looking at ways of adding value to the sorghum crop by making biodegradable plastics from the sorghum seed storage protein kafirin.

Image of sorghum

Relevant publications

PS Belton and JRN Taylor “Pseudocereals and Less Common Cereals” Springer, Berlin, 2002

C Gao, M Stading, N Wellner, ML Parker, TR Noel, ENC Mills and PS Belton

“Plasticization of a Protein-Based Film by Glycerol: A Spectroscopic, Mechanical, and Thermal Study” J. Agric. Food Chem. 2006, 54, 4611

C Gao, J Taylor, N Wellner, Y B Byaruhanga, M L Parker, E N C Mills and P S Belton "Effect of preparation conditions on protein secondary structure and biofilm formation of kafirin" J. Agric. Food Chem. 2005, 53, 306

PS Belton and JRN Taylor “ Sorghum and Millets: Protein Sources for Africa” Trends in Food Sci. and Tech. 2004, 15, 94

KG Duodo, JRN Taylor, PS Belton and BR Hamaker, " Factors affecting Sorghum Protein Digestibility" J. Cereal. Sci. 2003, 38, 117

PS Belton and JRN Taylor 2003 “Workshop on Proteins of Sorghum and Millets: Enhancing Nutritional and Functional Properties for Africa”

KG Duodu, A Nunes, I Delgadillo, ML Parker, ENC Mills, PS Belton and JRN Taylor "Effect of Grain Structure and Cooking on Sorghum and Maize in vitro Protein Digestibility" J. Cereal Sci. 2002, 35, 161

KG Duodo, H Tang, A Grant, N Wellner, PS Belton and JRN Taylor, "FTIR and Solid State NMR Spectroscopy of Proteins of Wet Cooked and Popped Sorghum and Maize", J. Cereal. Sci. 2001, 33, 261

ML Parker, A Grant, NM Rigby, PS Belton and JRN Taylor “Effects of Popping on the Endosperm Cell Walls of Maize and Sorghum” J. Cereal Sci., 1999, 30, 209

PS Belton and JRN Taylor “Increasing the Utilisation of Sorghum, Buckwheat, Grain Amaranth and Quinoa for Improved Nutrition” -Selected Papers from the ICC Cereals Conference Symposium “Challenges in Speciality Crops. Vienna 1998.” Institute of Food Research, Norwich 1998

Research Funding

The development of a novel approach to high throughput analysis using arrays of near field thermal probes
Reading, M, Craig, DQM, Belton, PS and Deigner H-P
01-Apr-06 – 31-Mar-09

A spectroscopic and thermal investigation into the structure and stability of sugar glasses - Nicole Hunter
Belton, PS
01-Oct-05 - 30-Sep-08

Investigating wheat functionality through breeding and end use
Belton, PS
01-Nov-04 - 31-Dec-06

Royal Society of Chemistry
A new spectral enhancement framework for infrared spectroscopy of proteins
Razaz, M and Belton, PS
01-Oct-03 - 30-Sep-06

A genomic approach to improving wheat grain quality for breadmaking
Belton, PS
07-Apr-03 - 06-Apr-06

Rothamsted Research
Biophysical and spectroscopic studies of selected wheats
Belton, PS
01-Jun-03 - 01-Jun-05

Molecular mechanisms of wheat protein elasticity
Belton PS, Halford NG , Shewry R , Wilson RH
01-Apr-01 – 31-Dec-04

The Royal Society
Study visit for Professor Victor Rodin from Russia
Belton, PS
29-Sep-03 - 16-Dec-03

The proteins of Sorghum and Millets: Enhancing nutritional and functional properties for Africa
Belton, PS
01-Jan-03 - 30-Sep-03

The effect of high pressure processing on legume storage proteins
Belton PS, Mills ENC
08-Mar-99 – 24-Jan -03

Molecular basis for the emulsification properties of seed proteins
Shewry R, Belton PS , Tatham A S
01-Jan-99 – 01-Jan-03

Areas of Expertise

Food science; cereal science; social aspects of science, particularly food science; African cereals.

Research Group or Lab Membership

Postgraduate Students

  • Abdulla Almutawah (Protein hydration using dielectric and infrared spectroscopy)
  • Nicole Hunter (Characterisation of sugar glasses)
  • Kim Ng (The chemistry of dityrosine cross links in cereal proteins)
  • Thomas Wake (numerical methods of spectral analysis)

Visiting Workers

  • Prof KJ Packer
  • Dr. Gyebi Duodo (Commonwealth fellow, University of Pretoria)

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 3 - Good Health and Well-being
  • SDG 6 - Clean Water and Sanitation
  • SDG 9 - Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure

Collaborations and top research areas from the last five years

Recent external collaboration on country/territory level. Dive into details by clicking on the dots or