Effect of the Interactions between Oppositely Charged Cellulose Nanocrystals (CNCs) and Chitin Nanocrystals (ChNCs) on the Enhanced Stability of Soybean Oil-in-Water Emulsions
Chitin nanocrystals (ChNCs) and cellulose nanocrystals (CNCs) have been recently used to stabilize emulsions; however, they generally require significant amounts of salt, limiting their applicability in food products. In this study, we developed nanoconjugates by mixing positively charged ChNCs and negatively charged CNCs at various ChNC:CNC mass ratios (2:1, 1:1, and 1:2), and utilized them in stabilizing soybean oil–water Pickering emulsions with minimal use of NaCl salt (20 mM) and nanoparticle (NP) concentrations below 1 wt%. The nanoconjugates stabilized the emulsions better than individual CNC or ChNC in terms of a reduced drop growth and less creaming. Oppositely charged CNC and ChNC neutralized each other when their mass ratio was 1:1, leading to significant flocculation in the absence of salt at pH 6. Raman spectroscopy provided evidence for electrostatic interactions between the ChNCs and CNCs, and generated maps suggesting an assembly of ChNC bundles of micron-scale lengths intercalated by similar-size areas predominantly composed of CNC. The previous measurements, in combination with contact angles on nanoparticle films, suggested that the conjugates preferentially exposed the hydrophobic crystalline planes of CNCs and ChNCs at a 1:1 mass ratio, which was also the best ratio at stabilizing soybean oil–water Pickering emulsions.