Remarkably high surface visco-elasticity of adsorption layers of triterpenoid saponins

Konstantin Golemanov, Slavka Tcholakova*, Nikolai Denkov, Edward Pelan, Simeon D. Stoyanov

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

61 Citations (Scopus)


Saponins are natural surfactants, with molecules composed of a hydrophobic steroid or triterpenoid group, and one or several hydrophilic oligosaccharide chains attached to this group. Saponins are used in cosmetic, food and pharmaceutical products, due to their excellent ability to stabilize emulsions and foams, and to solubilize bulky hydrophobic molecules. The foam and emulsion applications call for a better understanding of the surface properties of saponin adsorption layers, including their rheological properties. Of particular interest is the relation between the molecular structure of the various saponins and their surface properties. Here, we study a series of eight triterpenoid and three steroid saponins, with different numbers of oligosaccharide chains. The surface rheological properties of adsorption layers at the air-water interface, subjected to creep-recovery and oscillatory shear deformations, are investigated. The experiments showed that all steroid saponins exhibited no shear elasticity and had negligible surface viscosity. In contrast, most of the triterpenoid saponins showed complex visco-elastic behavior with extremely high elastic modulus (up to 1100 mN m-1) and viscosity (130 N s m-1). Although the magnitude of the surface modulus differed significantly for the various saponins, they all shared qualitatively similar rheological properties: (1) the elastic modulus was much higher than the viscous one. (2) Up to a certain critical value of surface stress, τC, the single master curve described the dependence of the creep compliance versus time. This rheological response was described well by the compound Voigt model. (3) On increasing the surface stress above τC, the compliance decreased with the applied stress, and eventually, all layers became purely viscous, indicating a loss in the layer structure, responsible for the elastic properties. The saponin extracts, showing the highest elastic moduli, were those of Escin, Tea saponins and Berry saponins, all containing predominantly monodesmosidic triterpenoid saponins. Similarly, a high surface modulus was measured for Ginsenosides extracts, containing bidesmosidic triterpenoid saponins with short sugar chains.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5738-5752
Number of pages15
JournalSoft Matter
Issue number24
Publication statusPublished - 28 Jun 2013

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Chemistry(all)
  • Condensed Matter Physics


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