Phospholipid-Based Reverse Micelle Structures in Vegetable Oil Modified by Water Content, Free Fatty Acid, and Temperature

Paavo A. Penttilä*, Sampsa Vierros, Katja Utriainen, Nico Carl, Lauri Rautkari, Maria Sammalkorpi, Monika Österberg

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)
120 Downloads (Pure)


Colloidal assemblies of phospholipids in oil are known to be highly sensitive to changes in system composition and temperature. Despite the fundamental biological and high industrial relevance of these aggregates, the mechanisms behind the structural changes, especially in real oils, are not well understood. In this work, small-angle X-ray scattering (SAXS) was combined with molecular dynamics simulations to characterize the effects of oleic acid, water, and temperature on self-assembled structures formed by lecithin in rapeseed oil. SAXS showed that adding water to the mixtures caused the precipitation of liquid-crystalline phases with lamellar or hexagonal geometry. The combination of SAXS and molecular dynamics simulations revealed that stable spherical reverse micelles in oil had a core radius of about 2 nm and consisted of approximately 60 phospholipids centered around a core containing water and sugars. The presence of oleic acid improved the stability of reverse micelles against precipitation due to the increase in the water concentration in oil by allowing the reverse micelle cores to expand and accommodate more water. The shape and size of the reverse micelles changed at high temperatures, and irreversible elongation was observed, especially in the presence of oleic acid. The findings show the interdependency of the structure of the reverse micellar aggregates on system composition, in particular, oleic acid and water, as well as temperature. The revealed characteristics of the self-assembled structures have significance in understanding and tuning the properties of vegetable oil-based emulsions, food products, oil purification, and drug delivery systems.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)8373-8382
Number of pages10
Issue number25
Publication statusPublished - 25 Jun 2019
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


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