American Chemical Society
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High Internal Phase Oil-in-Water Pickering Emulsions Stabilized by Chitin Nanofibrils: 3D Structuring and Solid Foam

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journal contribution
posted on 2020-02-20, 14:36 authored by Ya Zhu, Siqi Huan, Long Bai, Annika Ketola, Xuetong Shi, Xiao Zhang, Jukka A. Ketoja, Orlando J. Rojas
Chitin nanofibrils (NCh, ∼10 nm lateral size) were produced under conditions that were less severe compared to those for other biomass-derived nanomaterials and used to formulate high internal phase Pickering emulsions (HIPPEs). Pre-emulsification followed by continuous oil feeding facilitated a “scaffold” with high elasticity, which arrested droplet mobility and coarsening, achieving edible oil-in-water emulsions with internal phase volume fraction as high as 88%. The high stabilization ability of rodlike NCh originated from the restricted coarsening, droplet breakage and coalescence upon emulsion formation. This was the result of (a) irreversible adsorption at the interface (wettability measurements by the captive bubble method) and (b) structuring in highly interconnected fibrillar networks in the continuous phase (rheology, cryo-SEM, and fluorescent microscopies). Because the surface energy of NCh can be tailored by pH (protonation of surface amino groups), emulsion formation was found to be pH-dependent. Emulsions produced at pH from 3 to 5 were most stable (at least for 3 weeks). Although at a higher pH NCh was dispersible and the three-phase contact angle indicated better interfacial wettability to the oil phase, the lower interdroplet repulsion caused coarsening at high oil loading. We further show the existence of a trade-off between NCh axial aspect and minimum NCh concentration to stabilize 88% oil-in-water HIPPEs: only 0.038 wt % (based on emulsion mass) NCh of high axial aspect was required compared to 0.064 wt % for the shorter one. The as-produced HIPPEs were easily textured by taking advantage of their elastic behavior and resilience to compositional changes. Hence, chitin-based HIPPEs were demonstrated as emulgel inks suitable for 3D printing (millimeter definition) via direct ink writing, e.g., for edible functional foods and ultralight solid foams displaying highly interconnected pores and for potential cell culturing applications.