After two years of research, the Mechanical Engineering Department of the PUC-Rio Scientific Technical Center (CTC / PUC-Rio), the Chemistry Department of University of Sao Paulo – USP  and the Physics Department of the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) – the largest University of Norway – were successful in using nanoparticles of laponite®  (a type of synthetic clay) to stabilize emulsions. The result gave rise to an article in Scientific Reports, an open access online journal published by Nature, one of the most important scientific journals today.

Emulsions are oil-in-water dispersions, widely used in the cosmetics (creams in general), food (ice cream and mayonnaise, for example) and oil industries. The challenge is to keep the drops dispersed, preventing them from clumping together and forming a large drop. And still, that they are always of the same size, without changing as the time passes.

According to Prof. Marcio Carvalho, from the Department of Mechanical Engineering of CTC / PUC-Rio, the unpublishing was to get to form this laponite® shell around the drops as a way to control the stability of the emulsion. With years of experience in the study of technique of injecting emulsions as an advanced recovery method, turned on the petroleum industry, CTC / PUC-Rio usually uses surfactants for this stabilization. The partnership with NTNU was due to the know-how of the Norwegian university with clays. According to Carvalho, laponita® is a very inexpensive and easily accessible nanoparticle, making the process even more economical.

“We were able to prove the concept. It is now up to Industry to confirm whether this system is compatible with its application and whether this may influence the final performance of each product. A better understanding of this phenomenon may lead to new technologies of emulsion or encapsulation, “adds Carvalho, who adds:” We have created two different types of clay-based nanostructures in one drop of oil in water by simply adjusting the salinity of the water around the gout, which may help increase oil production, to extend the shelf life of certain foods or that could be used in cosmetics or drugs. ”

In the CTC / PUC-Rio, Carvalho directed the post-doctoral researcher Azarmidokht Gholamipour-Shirazi, of Iranian origin and who came to study in Brazil through the Sciences Without Borders project. In the team of Sao Paulo university (USP) chemists, responsible for the characterization tests, Prof. Koiti Araki also directed post-doc Manoel Huila. And among NTNU physicists, the studies were led by professors Jon Otto Fossum and Paul Dommersnes. “International and interdisciplinary research is a very rich experience. The results with laponite® nanoparticles were surprising and we will continue the partnership, looking at other systems, other particles “, reveals Prof. Márcio Carvalho.

*LAPONITA® registered trademark of Southern Clay Products, Inc.