Semi-solid and liquid food thickeners typically take the form of either polymeric or particulate structures. These structures are known to control flow properties and mixing efficiency which can influence performance, texture and the perception of tastants and aromas. However, their structural influence on thin-film rheology (tribology), which is also relevant for texture perception, is not so well understood. In this investigation, the tribology in a boundary regime of lubrication is tested using kappa carrageenan lubricants formulated both in solution and as gelled particles in suspension (fluid gels) to provide new insights into the structural influence of thickener type on tribology. Polymeric lubricated systems were shown to be dominated by elastic deformation of the tribo surfaces and particulate suspensions were dominated by particles acting as contacting asperities of the mating surfaces. The tribology of gelled particles was shown to depend strongly on particle elasticity where less deformable (stiffer) particles reduce surface–surface contact and therefore reduce friction coefficients. The effect of particle volume fraction on friction coefficient is related to the number of particles entraining the contact and not particle–particle interactions or bulk rheological behaviour.
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