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What are Emulsifiers?

11/8/2013 7:55:14 AM | by Anonymous


Emulsifiers are substances that help with forming and promoting the stability of the emulsion process. Emulsifiers can come from many different sources and they can exist in various forms as well. Emulsifiers usually consist of a single molecule that has two different ends. One of the ends is called the hydrophilic end which bonds with the water and the other end is called the hydrophobic end and this end bonds with oil like substances. Emulsifiers are often added to a chemical process that has water and an oily substance present to form a protective barrier to protect the oil molecules and stabilize and promote the whole emulsion process.

Apart from being used widely in the medical industry, emulsifiers are also often used in beauty products, cosmetics and food. Emulsifiers are used to start the emulsion process, helping the emulsion to be stable longer. An emulsion is simple a mixture of two liquids that are unable to naturally bond together. One good example is when oil and water are mixed together. The oil will slowly accumulate on the top and not mix with the water at all.

The emulsion process can also be formed by applying kinetic energy. For example, when shaking a vinaigrette dressing the layers start to mix together but after awhile the layers start to separate again. Thus, an emulsifier is added to this mixture and it will help the two liquids stay together longer. Emulsifiers coat the two types of molecules of the liquids and this prevents the molecules from grouping together and mixing together. Apart from vinaigrette dressings, mayonnaise, egg lecithin, mustard, honey and other food preparation products also use emulsifiers.

In the medical industry, emulsifiers are used for products such as ointments, balms and creams. Such medicinal products have water in them whereby the medicinal properties are present in them. An emulsifier is added to the products to ensure that the products can still be used after a long period of time. Beauty products such as facial creams or skin creams also use emulsifiers.

The most common application of food emulsifiers are used in food. They have been around for hundreds of years to keep oil and water mixtures from separating. Although there are certain cooking techniques that can be used to create and emulsion between the mixtures, emulsifiers are still added to provide more stability. One of the oldest types of emulsifiers are chicken eggs. These chicken eggs are often used for baked foods. There are also chemical emulsifiers which use similar molecular chains that provide the same properties as natural emulsifiers. Chemical emulsifiers are usually used in processed food.


Eggs are good emulsifiers as they are natural. In order for an emulsifier to be effective, lecithin is needed. The more lecithin the better emulsifier will be. Eggs are good emulsifiers as their yolk is abundant with lecithin. Lecithin is able to easily bind to water. Lecithin is also present in other food and oils such as soy beans, canola and other natural oils as well. Lecithin can also be extracted in the laboratory to form a paste or powder to start emulsion without ruining the taste of the food.

Another type of emulsifiers is mono glycerides. Mono glycerides are often used for food processing purposes. These mono glycerides often contain fatty acids that are extracted from sources such as animals or plants. Mono glycerides are popular as they are able to accomplish more than just emulsion. Mono glycerides are able to make the substance less sticky and prevent too much foam from producing. The only downside is that these emulsifiers are not natural.
Thus, there are many types of emulsifiers that can be used for different applications. However, their basic function remains the same, to prevent separation of two insoluble liquids.


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