Relating emulsion stability to interfacial properties for pharmaceutical emulsions stabilized by Pluronic F68 surfactant

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We explore mechanisms of emulsion stability for several systems using Pluronic F68 and a range of oils commonly used in pharmaceutics and cosmetics. We report measurements of dynamic emulsion drop size, zeta potential, and creaming time, as well as dynamic interfacial tension and interfacial viscoelasticity. Experiments show that with 1 wt% Pluronic F68, soybean oil emulsions were the most stable with no creaming over six months, followed by isopropyl myristate, octanoic acid, and then ethyl butyrate. The eventual destabilization occurred due to the rising of large drops which formed through Ostwald ripening and coalescence. While Ostwald ripening is important, it is not the dominant destabilization mechanism for the time scale of interest in pharmaceutical emulsions. The more significant destabilization mechanism, coalescence, is reduced through surfactant adsorption, which decreases surface tension, increases surface elasticity, and adds a stearic hindrance to collisions. Though the measured values of elasticity obtained using a standard oscillatory pendant drop method did not correlate to emulsion stability, this is because the frequencies for the measurements were orders of magnitude below those relevant to coalescence in emulsions. However, we show that the high frequency elasticity obtained by fitting the surface tension data to a Langmuir isotherm has very good correlation with the emulsion stability, indicating that the elasticity of the interface plays a key role in stabilizing these pharmaceutical formulations. Further, this study highlights how these important high frequency elasticity values can be easily estimated from surface isotherms.

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