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Issue 6, 2012
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Nanoemulsions versus microemulsions: terminology, differences, and similarities

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Colloidal delivery systems based on microemulsions or nanoemulsions are increasingly being utilized in the food and pharmaceutical industries to encapsulate, protect, and deliver lipophilic bioactive components. The small size of the particles in these kinds of delivery systems (r < 100 nm) means that they have a number of potential benefits for certain applications: enhanced long-term stability; high optical clarity; and, increased bioavailability. Currently, there is considerable confusion about the use of the terms “microemulsions” and “nanoemulsions” in the scientific literature. However, these are distinctly different types of colloidal dispersions: a microemulsion is thermodynamically stable, whereas a nanoemulsion is not. It is therefore important to distinguish between them since this impacts the methods used to fabricate them, the strategies used to stabilize them, and the approaches used to design their functional attributes. This article reviews the differences and similarities between nanoemulsions and microemulsions in terms of their compositions, structure, fabrication, properties, and stability. It also attempts to highlight why there has been so much confusion in this area, and to clarify the terminology used to refer to these two kinds of colloidal dispersion.

Graphical abstract: Nanoemulsions versus microemulsions: terminology, differences, and similarities

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Publication details

The article was received on 05 Oct 2011, accepted on 23 Nov 2011 and first published on 22 Dec 2011

Article type: Opinion
DOI: 10.1039/C2SM06903B
Citation: Soft Matter, 2012,8, 1719-1729

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    Nanoemulsions versus microemulsions: terminology, differences, and similarities

    D. J. McClements, Soft Matter, 2012, 8, 1719
    DOI: 10.1039/C2SM06903B

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