In this study, we investigated the gelation of WPI fibrils in the presence of bacterial cellulose (BC) microfibrils at pH 2 upon prolonged heating. Rheology and microstructure were investigated as a function of BC microfibril concentration. The presence of BC microfibrils did not influence the gelation dynamics and resulting overall structure of the WPI fibrillar gel. The storage modulus and loss modulus of the mixed WPI-BC microfibril gels increased with increasing BC microfibril concentration, whereas the ratio between loss modulus and storage modulus remained constant. The WPI fibrils and BC microfibrils independently form two coexisting gel networks. Interestingly, near to the BC microfibrils more aligned WPI fibrils seemed to be formed, with individual WPI fibrils clearly distinguishable. The level of alignment of the WPI fibrils seemed to be dependent on the distance between BC microfibrils and WPI fibrils. This also is in line with our observation that with more BC microfibrils present, WPI fibrils are more aligned than in a WPI fibrillar gel without BC microfibrils. The large deformation response of the gels at different BC microfibril concentration and NaCl concentration is mainly influenced by the concentration of NaCl, which affects the WPI fibrillar gel structures, changing form linear fibrillar to a particulate gel. The WPI fibrillar gel yields the dominant contribution to the gel strength.
- bacterial cellulose microfibrils
- fibrillar gel
- protein fibrils
- whey protein isolate