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Effect of Water Structure on Gelation of Agar in Glycerol Solutions and Phase Diagram of Agar Organogels

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journal contribution
posted on 21.06.2012, 00:00 by Shilpi Boral, H. B. Bohidar
A comprehensive study of hydration of polyanionic agar molecules in its solution and gel phase in glycerol–water binary solvent is reported. Raman spectroscopy results predict differential water structure arrangement for glycerol–water binary solvent, 0.02% (w/v) agar in glycerol solution and 0.3% (w/v) agar organogel. The 3200 cm–1 Raman band pertaining to ice-like structure of water was found to increase in gel phase alike in glycerol–water solvent while it decreased in agar solutions with increase in glycerol concentration. In contrast, the partially structured water corresponding to the component 3310 cm–1 of Raman spectra increased in agar solution, and decreased in gel phase similar to glycerol–water solvent case. We have explained these observations based on a simple model where the available oxygen to hydrogen atom ratio in a given solvent–polymer system uniquely defines hydration in solution and gel phases. The gelation concentration was found to increase from 0.18 (for water) to 0.22% (w/v) (50% v/v glycerol solution) as the glycerol concentration was raised. Correspondingly, the gelation temperature, Tg, showed a decline from 40 to 20 °C, and the gel melting temperature, Tm, revealed a reduction from 81 to 65 °C in the same glycerol concentration regime. Two distinctive features are evident here: (i) presence of glycerol as a cosolvent does not favor the gelation of agar as compared to water and (ii) agar organogels are softer than their hydrogels. A unique 3D phase diagram for the agar organogel is proposed. Circular dichroism data confirmed that the agar molecules retained their biological activity in these solvents. Thus, it is shown that thermo-mechanical properties of these organogels could be systematically tuned and adapted as per application requirement.