Dynamic experimentation on the confocal laser scanning microscope : application to soft-solid, composite food materials

K.P. Plucknett, S.J. Pomfret, V. Normand, D. Ferdinando, C. Veerman, W.J. Frith, I.T. Norton

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35 Citations (Scopus)


Confocal laser scanning microscopy (CLSM) is used to follow the dynamic structural evolution of several phase-separated mixed biopolymer gel composites. Two protein/polysaccharide mixed gel systems were examined: gelatin/maltodextrin and gelatin/agarose. These materials exhibit 'emulsion-like' structures, with included spherical particles of one phase (i.e. polymer A) within a continuous matrix of the second (i.e. polymer B). Compositional control of these materials allows the phase order to be inverted (i.e. polymer B included and polymer A continuous), giving four basic variants for the present composites. Tension and compression mechanical tests were conducted dynamically on the CLSM, with crack/microstructure interactions investigated using a notched compact tension geometry. Gelatin/maltodextrin composites exhibit a 'pseudo-yielding' stress/strain response in both tension and compression, when the gelatin-rich phase is continuous, which was attributed to debonding of the particle/matrix interface. This behaviour is significantly less apparent for both the gelatin/agarose composites, and the maltodextrin continuous gelatin/maltodextrin composites, with these materials responding in a nominally linear elastic manner. Values of the interfacial fracture energy for selected compositions of the two biopolymer systems were determined by 90° peel testing, where a gelatin layer was peeled from either a maltodextrin or agarose substrate. For biopolymer layers 'cast' together, a value of 0.2 ± 0.2 J m2 was obtained for the fracture energy of a gelatin/maltodextrin interface, while a significantly higher value of 6.5 ± 0.2 J m2 was determined for a gelatin/agarose interface. The interfacial fracture energy of the two mixed systems was also determined following an indirect elastomer composite debonding model. An interfacial fracture energy of 0.25 J m2 was determined using this approach for the gelatin continuous gelatin/maltodextrin composite, which compares favourably with the value calculated directly by peel testing (i.e. 0.2 J m2). A somewhat higher value was estimated for the gelatin continuous gelatin/agarose system (1.0-2.0 J m2), using this model, although there are severe limitations to this approach for this mixed gel system. In the present case, it is believed that the differing mechanical response of the two mixed biopolymer systems, when the gelatin phase is continuous, arises from the order of magnitude difference in interfacial fracture energy. It is postulated that polymer interdiffusion may occur across the interface for the gelatin/agarose system, to a significantly greater extent than for interfaces between gelatin and maltodextrin, resulting in a higher interfacial fracture energy.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)279-290
JournalJournal of Microscopy
Publication statusPublished - 2001

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