Molecular inspection of fabric conditioners

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If you would like to discuss a materials analysis problem or a potential research collaboration, get in touch to see how we can help.

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We can analyse gels and liquids at the micron level using cryogenic electron microscopy techniques.


Chemical gel-like fluids can behave unusually and often their large-scale properties depend on their micro-scale properties – things like the chemical polymer behaviour, structures and composition. In products like fabric conditioners the conditions are likely to change especially when used, specifically temperature. Any disparity between the properties of the gel when produced, stored and used need to be fully understood.


Usually, liquids, gels and otherwise ‘soft’ objects cannot be inspected at the micro-scale. However in Bristol’s Wolfson Bioimaging Facility, our experts use cryoSEM to prepare these challenging samples. The sample is rapidly frozen, then introduced into a preparation chamber, where the sample can be fractured and then coated before observation in the SEM while still being maintained throughout at below – 160 degrees C.

The low temperatures freeze the fibres in the gel in place, making them appear crystalline
Images provided by Judith Mantell, at the Wolfson


These images are crucial for biochemical development of gel or liquid products to ensure they behave as predicted and so that they do not alter and fail to perform as intended once used by the customers. 

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