Role of microscopic phase separation in gelation of aqueous gelatin solutions
Using a unique home-made cell for four-contact impedance spectroscopy of conductive liquid samples, we establish the existence of two low frequency conductivity relaxations in aqueous solutions of gelatin, in both liquid and gel states. A comparison with diffusion measurements using pulsed field gradient NMR, and circular dichroism spectroscopy, shows that the faster relaxation process is due to gelatin macromolecule self-diffusion. This single molecule diffusion is mostly insensitive to the macroscopic state of the sample, implying that we have a clear separation of gelatin molecules into a free and network-bound phase. Scaling relationships for the self-diffusion indicate that the gelation process is not a percolative phenomenon, but is caused by aggregation of triple helices into a system-spanning fibre network.