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New Composite Hydrogel Based on Whey and Gelatin Crosslinked with Copper Sulphate

By-products from the meat and dairy industries are important sources of high biological value proteins. This paper explores possibilities for improving the swelling and integrity of a cross-linked whey and gelatin hydrogel with different amounts of CuSO4 × 5H2O. Overall, swelling tests demonstrate that cross-linked samples show a better hydration capacity and stability in the hydration medium, but different copper concentrations lead to different swelling behavior. At concentrations smaller than 0.39%, the sample lasts for 75 h in a water environment before beginning to disintegrate. At a concentration of copper sulphate higher than 0.55%, the stability of the sample increased substantially. The swelling kinetics has been investigated. The diffusion constant values increased with the increase in copper concentration, but, at the highest concentration of copper (0.86%), its value has decreased. Spectroscopy analyses such as Fourier transform infrared (FT-IR), X-ray diffraction (XRD), ultraviolet-visible spectroscopy (UV-VIS), and nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) relaxometry analyses revealed changes in the secondary and tertiary structure of proteins as a result of the interaction of Cu2+ ions with functional groups of protein chains. In addition to its cross-linking ability, CuSO4 × 5H2O has also shown excellent antibacterial properties over common bacterial strains responsible for food spoilage. The result of this research demonstrates the potential of this hydrogel system as a unique material for food packaging.

Publication date: 01/04/2022

Author: Pompilia Mioara Purcea Lopes

Reference: doi: 10.3390/ma15072611

MDPI (materials)


This project has received funding from the Bio Based Industries Joint Undertaking under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 837761.