Kaolinite Al2Si2O5(OH)4 is an abundant and inexpensive geomaterial regarded as one of the most common clay minerals in the earth's crust and the most widespread phase among the other kaolin polymorphs (halloysite, dickite and nacrite). Structurally, it is a hydrous aluminum phyllosilicate member belonging to the dioctahedral 1:1 kaolin mineral group. The particle size of the pseudohexagonal kaolinite platelets is normally <2 μm (if compared to a human red blood cell of a typical diameter 6.2–8.2 μm or to a virus particle of about 50 nm diameter). The kaolinite platelets, either stacked together with a common booklet-like shape in a highly ordered structure (well crystallized) or disordered structure (poorly crystallized), consist of layers considered as a strong dipole of hydrophobic siloxane surface dominated by negative charges, and the other hydrophilic aluminol surface carries positive charges.
Kaolinite has been used in many pharmaceutical applications as excipient or active ingredient, because it exhibits excellent physical, chemical and surface physicochemical properties. In addition to their classical pharmaceutical uses, kaolinite and its derivatives have been recently considered as a promising material in many biomedical innovation areas such as drug, protein and gene delivery based on the high interaction capacities with organic and biochemical molecules, bioadhesion and cellular uptake.
Pharmaceutical kaolin grades are considerably demanded for usage as excipient in formulations of solid and semi-solid dosage forms. The most important functionalities of kaolin used as excipient are reported as diluent, binder, disintegrant, pelletizing and granulating, amorphizing, particle film coating, emulsifying and suspending agent. Because of its uninjured bioactivity, kaolinite has been also used as active agent for treatment of some common diseases. It can be topically administered as hemostatic agent, dermatological protector, anti-inflammatory agent and in pelotherapy, or orally as gastrointestinal protector, and antibacterial, antiviral, detoxification or antidiarrheal agent.
With these premises, the future of kaolinite in health-care uses is strongly interesting, especially in the development of pharmaceutical and cosmetic industries. In biomedicinal investigations, it can be considered as a promising natural geomaterial for designing new derivatives that can contribute in the trials of discovering new therapeutic systems and treatment pathways of global challenge diseases such as cancer, viruses, antibiotic resistant bacteria, alzheimer, chronic skeletomuscular and geriatric diseases.