Spatiotemporal Heterogeneity of κ-Carrageenan Gels Investigated via Single-Particle-Tracking Fluorescence Microscopy

Koen J.A. Martens, John Van Duynhoven, Johannes Hohlbein*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)


Hydrogels made of the polysaccharide κ-carrageenan are widely used in the food and personal care industry as thickeners or gelling agents. These hydrogels feature dense regions embedded in a coarser bulk network, but the characteristic size and behavior of these regions have remained elusive. Here, we use single-particle-tracking fluorescence microscopy (sptFM) to quantitatively describe κ-carrageenan gels. Infusing fluorescent probes into fully gelated κ-carrageenan hydrogels resulted in two distinct diffusional behaviors. Obstructed self-diffusion of the probes revealed that the coarse network consists of κ-carrageenan strands with a typical diameter of 3.2 ± 0.3 nm leading to a nanoprobe diffusion coefficient of ∼1-5 × 10-12 m2/s. In the dense network regions, we found a fraction with a largely decreased diffusion coefficient of ∼1 × 10-13 m2/s. We also observed dynamic exchange between these states. The computation of spatial mobility maps from the diffusional data indicated that the dense network regions have a characteristic diameter of ∼1 μm and show mobility on the second-to-minute timescale. sptFM provides an unprecedented view of spatiotemporal heterogeneity of hydrogel networks, which we believe bears general relevance for understanding transport and release of both low- and high-molecular weight solutes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5502-5509
Number of pages8
Issue number20
Publication statusPublished - 26 May 2020


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