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IIT-M researchers discover natural solution to stabilize emulsions

The use of the latex-bearing plant will enhance the biodegradability of the emulsions, the researchers say
Last Updated : 22 February 2023, 13:52 IST
Last Updated : 22 February 2023, 13:52 IST
Last Updated : 22 February 2023, 13:52 IST
Last Updated : 22 February 2023, 13:52 IST

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With the world increasingly prioritizing sustainable and natural products, researchers from the prestigious Indian Institute of Technology, Madras (IIT-M) have discovered a natural and sustainable solution for stabilizing emulsions by proposing the usage of a milky-white sap collected from the latex-bearing plant Calotropis procera.

The plant, which is known as the apple of Sodom in English, Vellai Erukku in Tamil and Aak in Hindi, can be used as a versatile and sustainable source for emulsion stabilization, opening up new possibilities for sustainable emulsion stabilization in various industries.

The research team published its findings in peer-reviewed journal Langmuir in a paper co-authored by Prof Madivala G. Basavaraj from IIT-M’s Department of Chemical Engineering, and Hemant Kumar, a research scholar.

The use of the plant will enhance the biodegradability of the emulsions, the researchers say, adding that it will serve as eco-friendly and inexpensive alternative to conventional synthetic stabilizing agents. Furthermore, the adaptability of the plant means that it can be grown in any region, making it a readily available source for latex extraction, the researchers noted.

The traditional methods of stabilizing emulsions rely heavily on synthetic surfactants, which can be expensive and generate significant chemical waste.

Prof Basavaraj told DH that replacing synthetic emulsifiers with renewable, biodegradable and cost-efficient stabilizers is crucial as the world increasingly prioritizes sustainable and natural products. “This shift is also driven by the benefits of plant-based products, which can maintain effectiveness under a wider range of conditions, including high temperature, pH, and salinity,” he added.

He said the research team is excited about the potential of this discovery and is looking forward to further exploring the possibilities of using the latex of Vellai Erukku in various applications.

The researchers found that the constituents of latex derived from some plants can reduce oil-water interfacial tension and be used to create very stable single, double, and multiple emulsions. In particular, they found that the latex of C. procera is an effective stabilizer for emulsions.

C. procera is an adaptable plant that can be found in various regions, making it an accessible and inexpensive source for latex extraction, the researchers said. “The latex from C. procera is found to contain colloidal-scale particles and a large number of bioactive chemical species of different chain lengths and molecular weights. The team performed a systematic study of the colloidal characteristics of C. procera latex and its interfacial behaviour, specifically in the emulsification of aliphatic and aromatic oils,” the research paper added.

Kumar said their study found that constituents of the latex reduce the oil−water interfacial tension due to the spontaneous adsorption of surface-active species present in the latex. “This stabilizer can be used to obtain stable single emulsions, double emulsions, and multiple emulsions,” he said.

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Published 22 February 2023, 13:52 IST

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