pickering emulsion
Susanna Laurén Aug 22, ’23 < 6 min

What is Pickering emulsion?

Emulsions are a fundamental part of our daily lives, from the salad dressings we enjoy to the cosmetics we use. But have you ever heard of Pickering emulsion? This intriguing concept takes emulsions to a whole new level by introducing a unique stabilization mechanism that has captured the attention of scientists, researchers, and industries alike.

In this article, we will delve into the world of Pickering emulsions, uncovering their characteristics, applications, and the science behind their remarkable stability.

A quick overview of emulsions

Before we dive into the specifics of Pickering emulsions, let's take a brief look at what emulsions are. Emulsions are mixtures of two immiscible liquids, such as oil and water, stabilized by the introduction of an emulsifying agent. Common examples of emulsions include vinaigrettes, milk, and even paint.

The key challenge with emulsions lies in their inherent instability. Left undisturbed, oil and water will inevitably separate due to their differing densities. To overcome this, emulsifying agents are added to create a protective barrier around droplets of one liquid in the other, preventing them from coalescing and ultimately leading to separation.

Introducing Pickering emulsion

In 1907, a British chemist Percival Spencer Umfreville Pickering, described that the presence of a layer of solid particles increased the lifespan of oil drops and air bubbles in water. Instead of relying on traditional emulsifiers, Pickering emulsions utilize solid particles to stabilize the interface between the two immiscible liquids. These particles adsorb onto the oil-water or air-water interface, creating a protective barrier that prevents coalescence.

The stability of Pickering emulsions arises from the steric barrier formed by solid particles adsorbing at the liquid–liquid interface. Whether the emulsion formed is oil-in-water or water-in-oil can be determined by the wettability of the particles. If the particles used are hydrophilic (< 90-degree contact angle) in nature, such as silica or clay, the oil-in-water emulsion is formed. If the particles are hydrophobic (> 90-degree contact angle) such as carbon black, the water-in-oil emulsion is achieved. However, the contact angle of water against the particle should be fairly close to 90 degrees as otherwise the particles remain dispersed into one of the phases rather than adsorb at the interface.

This stabilization mechanism offers several advantages over traditional emulsions:

  • Enhanced Stability: Pickering emulsions are inherently more stable, as the solid particles physically prevent droplets from merging.
  • Reduced Dependency on Surfactants: Surfactants are the usual emulsifying agents, but they may have limitations like allergenic properties or environmental concerns. Pickering emulsions can reduce or eliminate the need for these agents.
  • Versatility: The type of solid particles used can be tailored to the application, allowing for customization of the emulsion's properties.

Applications Across Industries

Pickering emulsions have gained traction across a variety of industries due to their stability and versatility:

  • Food and Beverages: Pickering emulsions find use in creating healthier foods with reduced fat content, and in enhancing the stability of products like dressings and sauces.
  • Cosmetics and Personal Care: Skincare and cosmetic products benefit from Pickering emulsions, as they can improve texture, provide controlled release of active ingredients, and offer enhanced stability over time.
  • Pharmaceuticals: Drug delivery systems can be designed using Pickering emulsions to ensure precise dosing and release profiles.
  • Oil and Gas: In oil recovery operations, Pickering emulsions can improve the extraction of oil from reservoirs.

Challenges and Future Directions

While Pickering emulsions hold great promise, there are challenges to overcome, such as optimizing the choice of solid particles and understanding their interactions under various conditions. Research continues to explore ways to enhance the stability and versatility of these emulsions.

In conclusion, Pickering emulsions represent a captivating breakthrough in the world of emulsion science. By leveraging the unique properties of solid particles, these stabilized emulsions offer improved stability and a range of applications across diverse industries. As research in this field progresses, we can anticipate even more innovative uses for Pickering emulsions, revolutionizing the way we approach emulsion-based products and technologies.

Related products

   Theta Pulsating Drop Optical tensiometer especially suitable for interfacial rheology with the  pulsating drop method.

Explore the blog

You have only scratched the surface.



View all