Effect of temperature, water content and free fatty acid on reverse micelle formation of phospholipids in vegetable oil

Olli Pekka Lehtinen, Robertus Wahyu N. Nugroho, Tuula Lehtimaa, Sampsa Vierros, Panu Hiekkataipale, Janne Ruokolainen, Maria Sammalkorpi, Monika Österberg*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

27 Citations (Scopus)
225 Downloads (Pure)


The self-assembly of phospholipids in oil, specifically lecithin in rapeseed oil, was investigated by combining experimental and computational methods The influence of temperature, water, and free fatty acids on the onset of lecithin aggregation in the rapeseed oil was determined using the 7,7,8,8 -tetracyanoquinodimethane dye (TCNQ) solubilization method and the size and shape of the self-assembled lecithin structures were investigated by small-angle X-ray scattering and cryogenic transmission electron microscopy. In the absence of excess water in the system (0.03 wt-% water in oil), stable cylindrical lecithin reverse micelles were observed above the critical micelle concentration (CMC). Comparing the aggregation response in room temperature and at 70 °C revealed that CMC decreased with increasing temperature. Furthermore, already a modest amount of added water (0.3 wt-% water in oil) was sufficient to induce the formation of lamellar lecithin structures, that phase separated from the oil. In low water content, oleic acid suppressed the formation of lecithin reverse micelles whereas in the presence of more water, the oleic acid stabilized the reverse micelles. Consequently, more water was needed to induce phase separation in the presence of oleic acid. Molecular dynamics simulations indicated that the stabilizing effect of oleic acid resulted from oleic acid enhancing phospholipid solubilization in the oil by forming a solvating shell around the phosphate head group. The findings showed that the response of the mixed surfactant system is a delicate interplay of the different components and variables. The significance of the observations is that multiple parameters need to be controlled for desired system response, for example towards vegetable oil purification or phospholipid based microemulsions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)355-363
Number of pages9
JournalColloids and Surfaces B: Biointerfaces
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2017
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • Free fatty acid
  • Molecular simulations
  • Phospholipids
  • Reverse micelles
  • Vegetable oil


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