In this work the lubrication behaviour of emulsions, gels, and emulsion-filled gels was studied in relation to their composition and structure. It was found that emulsions had much lower friction coefficients than their continuous phases. Emulsions with 40 wt% oil had the same friction coefficient as the pure oil. The lubrication properties of the gels, sheared by pressing them through a syringe, strongly depended on the molecular properties of the gelling agent and on the breakdown behaviour of the gel matrix. For each type of emulsion-filled gel, the lubrication behaviour was affected by the interactions between oil droplets and matrix. For gels containing oil droplets bound to the matrix, the friction coefficient gradually decreased with increasing oil concentration. For gels containing oil droplets non-bound to the matrix, the friction coefficient of the filled gels was lower than that of the same gel matrix without oil.
However, no effect of the oil concentration on friction was observed. The different effects of the oil concentration on the lubrication behaviour of the various gels were explained by the relation between droplet–matrix interactions and the ‘apparent viscosity’ of the sheared gels. For gels with bound droplets, increasing the oil concentration resulted in an increase of the ‘apparent viscosity’ of the sheared gel. For gels with unbound droplets, the oil concentration did not affect the ‘apparent viscosity’. Confocal laser scanning microscopy (CLSM) observations of both emulsions and filled gels did not reveal coalescence of the oil droplets as a result of the shear treatment inherent to friction measurements.
Keywords: Lubrication, Friction coefficient, Protein gels, Polymer gels, Carrageenan, Gelatine, WPI, Emulsion