In this experiment, the influence of the morphology and surface characteristics of cellulosic nanoparticles (i.e., cellulose nanocrystals [CNCs] and cellulose nanofibers [CNFs]) on oil-in-water (o/w) emulsion stabilization was studied using non-modified or functionalized nanoparticles obtained following deep eutectic solvent (DES) pre-treatments. The effect of the oil-to-water ratio (5, 10, and 20 wt.-% (weight percent) of oil), the type of nanoparticle, and the concentration of the particles (0.05–0.2 wt.-%) on the oil-droplet size (using laser diffractometry), o/w emulsion stability (via analytical centrifugation), and stabilization mechanisms (using field emission scanning electron microscopy with the model compound—i.e., polymerized styrene in water emulsions) were examined. All the cellulosic nanoparticles studied decreased the oil droplet size in emulsion (sizes varied from 22.5 µm to 8.9 µm, depending on the nanoparticle used). Efficient o/w emulsion stabilization against coalescence and an oil droplet-stabilizing web-like structure were obtained only, however, with surface-functionalized CNFs, which had a moderate hydrophilicity level. CNFs without surface functionalization did not prevent either the coalescence or the creaming of emulsions, probably due to the natural hydrophobicity of the nanoparticles and their instability in water. Moderately hydrophilic CNCs, on the other hand, distributed evenly and displayed good interaction with both dispersion phases. The rigid structure of CNCs meant, however, that voluminous web structures were not formed on the surface of oil droplets; they formed in flat, uniform layers instead. Consequently, emulsion stability was lower with CNCs, when compared with surface-functionalized CNFs. Tunable cellulose nanoparticles can be used in several applications such as in enhanced marine oil response.
- Cellulose nanocrystals (CNCs)
- Cellulose nanofibrils (CNFs)
- Deep eutectic solvent (DES)
- O/w emulsion