Structuring edible and hydrocarbon oils: Oleogelation using plant phytosterols

Plant phytosterols (combinations of sterols and sterol esters) are able to self-associate and form fibrils when dispersed in triglyceride and hydrocarbon oil, thus promoting solidification or gelation of polyunsaturated liquid oils. These have potential as replacers for solid, saturated fats in foods, or as a means to encapsulate hydrophobic drugs in medical gels. There are a number of technical barriers for their use, including substantial supercooling of the gelation process, shear sensitivity and water sensitivity. In this project you would use rheological methods (small angle oscillatory, shear and large deformation testing) to probe the mechanical and texture properties of olegels made using beta-sitosterol and gamma-oryzanol. The effects of addition of small amounts of water would be probed using confocal microscopy, and the effect this has on the gel rheology probed.
This will build on previous and ongoing work in our lab on the formation and structure of edible oleogels. This ongoing work includes the use of advanced molecular dynamics simulation methods to probe the structure of the sterol tubules. There is the opportunity to combine experimental work with simulation studies, or to convert this completely to a simulation only study if you so desire.

Supervisor name: 
Steve Euston
Supervisor and Deputy email addresses:
Project location: 
John Muir G24
Deputy name: 
Valaria Arrighi