The hydrocolloids are a diverse group of long chain polymers with the ability to form viscous dispersions or gels when dispersed in water. They were discovered from trees, plant extracts, sea weeds, flours, seeds and gummy slimes from fermentation processes and other natural processes. The presence of the large number of hydroxyl groups has been seen to increase the affinity for binding water molecules to render them as hydrophilic compounds.
The ability of the hydrocolloids to produce dispersions, which are intermediate state between a true solution and a suspension, is seen as a key characteristic of a colloid and hence they may also be referred to as hydrophilic colloids or “hydrocolloids”.
The hydrocolloids have a wide range of functional properties in various industries arising from their properties such as thickeners, gel formation, emulsification, stabilization, coating characteristics. They also have a great ability to modify the flow characteristics of various compounds.
They are mainly chemical derivatives, which make a similar structure to the natural hydrocolloids. Common synthetic hydrocolloids are acrylic acid polymers which are also known as carbomers. With advancements in research, chemical manufacturers have merged science with nature to develop semi synthetic hydrocolloids. Chemical scientists are able to produce cellulose gum through addition of carboxy-methyl groups to the backbone of cellulose, to impart a negative charge to cellulose and make it water soluble.
Some of the advantages of the synthetic hydrocolloids are increased potency, resistance to microbial degradation and solution clarity.
There are generally from natural sources such as plant and animal sources and they include;
- Plant; pectin, carrageenan, cellulose gum, locust bean gum, guar gum split,
- Animal origin; these include gelatine,
- Microbial sources: these include Xanthan gum and gellan gum.
Industrial users of hydrocolloids include;
The food industry is a heavy consumer of hydrocolloids as they have a profound impact on the food properties. The main function is by their modification of the flow behaviour (viscosity) and mechanical solid property (texture) of food items. Another advantage is that natural hydrocolloids belong to category of the permitted food additives in most countries.
Synthetic Hydrocolloids in Dentifrices
There is continued use of synthetic hydrocolloids in manufacturing of convectional toothpastes, as they are derivatives of cellulose. The basic structure of the toothpaste is that it contains a blend of polishing agents, suspended in aqueous glycerine, sorbitol or propylene glycol liquid phase by means of a hydrocolloid. It therefore has a key role in maintaining product stability.
Oil Production Industry
The oil and gas mining industry has also been a major consumer of the hydrocolloids. The most used is guar gum powder and others of similar nature. They are used in the fracking process of oil exploration, where they help increase oil production in both horizontal and vertical drilling.
Personal Care Industry
The most used natural hydrocolloids in this area are the Xanthan gum, pectin carrageenan, gellan and CMC. They function as thickening, suspending and stabilizing agents in lotions, sunscreens and body washes.
The most used hydrocolloid here is the carboxy-methyl cellulose (CMC), which is used in paper making to impart good runnability, efficiency and quality on the paper and board products.
This article has been posted by Biren Patel working at Agro Gums. Agro Gums is a guar and cassia gum manufacturing company offering high quality guar gum powder, fast hydration guar gum powder, cassia powder, guar splits and guar meal to satisfy the production requirements of various industries across the world.