Cold Gelation of Alginates Induced by Monovalent Cations.

Biomacromolecules

PubMedID: 20931958

Karakasyan C, Legros M, Lack S, Brunel F, Maingault P, Ducouret G, Hourdet D. Cold Gelation of Alginates Induced by Monovalent Cations. Biomacromolecules. 2010;.
A new reversible gelation pathway is described for alginates in aqueous media. From various samples differing by their mannuronic/guluronic content (M/G), both enthalpic and viscoelastic experiments demonstrate that alginates having a high M content are able to form thermoreversible assemblies in the presence of potassium salts. The aggregation behavior is driven by the low solubility of M-blocks at low temperature and high ionic strength. In semidilute solutions, responsive assemblies induce a strong increase of the viscosity below a critical temperature. A true physical gel is obtained in the entangled regime, although the length scale of specific interactions between M-blocks decreases with increasing density of entanglements. Cold setting takes place at low temperatures, below 0 °C for potassium concentrations lower than 0.2 mol/kg, but the aggregation process can be easily shifted to higher temperatures by increasing the salt concentration. The self-assembling process of alginates in solution of potassium salts is characterized by a sharp gelation exotherm and a broad melting endotherm with a large hysteresis of 20-30 °C between the transition temperatures. The viscoelastic properties of alginate gels in potassium salts closely depend on thermal treatment (rate of cooling, time, and temperature of storage), polymer and salt concentrations, and monomer composition as well. In the case of alginates with a high G content, a similar aggregation behavior is also evidenced at higher salt concentrations, but the extent of the self-assembling process remains too weak to develop a true gelation behavior in solution.