Specific effects of Ca2+ ions and molecular structure of β-lactoglobulin interfacial layers that drive macroscopic foam stability†
β-Lactoglobulin (BLG) adsorption layers at air–water interfaces were studied in situ with vibrational sum-frequency generation (SFG), tensiometry, surface dilatational rheology and ellipsometry as a function of bulk Ca2+ concentration. The relation between the interfacial molecular structure of adsorbed BLG and the interactions with the supporting electrolyte is additionally addressed on higher length scales along the foam hierarchy – from the ubiquitous air–water interface through thin foam films to macroscopic foam. For concentrations <1 mM, a strong decrease in SFG intensity from O–H stretching bands and a slight increase in layer thickness and surface pressure are observed. A further increase in Ca2+ concentrations above 1 mM causes an apparent change in the polarity of aromatic C–H stretching vibrations from interfacial BLG which we associate to a charge reversal at the interface. Foam film measurements show formation of common black films at Ca2+ concentrations above 1 mM due to considerable decrease of the stabilizing electrostatic disjoining pressure. These observations also correlate with a minimum in macroscopic foam stability. For concentrations >30 mM Ca2+, micrographs of foam films show clear signatures of aggregates which tend to increase the stability of foam films. Here, the interfacial layers have a higher surface dilatational elasticity. In fact, macroscopic foams formed from BLG dilutions with high Ca2+ concentrations where aggregates and interfacial layers with higher elasticity are found, showed the highest stability with much smaller bubble sizes.