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Langmuir. 2019 Mar 26;35(12):4205-4217. doi: 10.1021/acs.langmuir.8b04009. Epub 2019 Mar 15.

Microgel Particles at Interfaces: Phenomena, Principles, and Opportunities in Food Sciences.

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Department of Chemistry , The Chinese University of Hong Kong , Shatin , NT 00852 , Hong Kong.
School of Chemical and Material Engineering , Jiangnan University , Wuxi 214122 , China.


The use of soft microgel particles for stabilizing emulsions has captured increasing attention across a wide range of disciplines in the past decades. Being soft, the nanoparticles, which are spherical in solution, undergo a structure change when adsorbed at the oil-water interface. This morphology change leads to the special dynamic properties of interface layers and packing structures, which then alter the interfacial tension and rheological properties of the interface. In addition, emulsions stabilized by these particles, known as Pickering emulsions, can be triggered by changing a variety of environmental conditions, which is especially desirable in industrial applications such as oil transportation processes and biphasic catalysis, where the emulsions can be stabilized and destabilized on demand. Although many studies of the behavior of soft microgel nanoparticles at interfaces have been reported, there are still many challenges in gaining a full understanding of the structure, dynamics, and effective interactions between microgels at the interface. In this Feature Article, we address some of the most important findings and problems in the field. They include the adsorption kinetics of soft microgel particles, particle conformation at the interface, pH and thermal responsiveness, and the interfacial rheological properties of soft-particle-occupied interfaces. We also discuss some potential benefits of using emulsions stabilized by soft particles for food applications as an alternative to conventional surfactant-based systems. We hope to encourage further investigation of these problems, which would be very beneficial to extending this knowledge to all other related soft matter systems.

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