Lipid-containing Materials

Un­der­stand­ing the factors af­fect­ing emul­sion sta­bil­iz­a­tion and path­way of lipid ox­id­a­tion

Emulsion stability is often referred to as physical stability, i.e., the maintenance of small, individual droplets of liquid evenly dispersed within the continuous phase of another liquid. To maintain small droplets, the interface is often stabilized using amphiphilic molecules or hydrocolloids.

The physical stability is not, however, alone sufficient to provide the required shelf-life for perishable products, such as those containing polyunsaturated fatty acids. Unsaturated fatty acids are recommended in human diet due to their health benefits; however, the presence of double bonds in the fatty acid chain makes them prone to oxidization by a radical chain mechanism. Lipid oxidation is undesirable because it decreases the nutritional value and leads to the development of off-flavors (“rancidity”) and the formation of potentially toxic reaction products. This has restricted the incorporation of polyunsaturated lipids into many food products. O/W emulsions are even more prone to oxidation than bulky oil, due to the high oil surface area available for the reactions with oxygen.

We characterize the potential of hemicelluloses to formulate and maintain small droplets of oil in water and prevent lipid oxidation. Our aim is to understand the pathway and factors affecting the stabilization.

De­vel­op­ing su­per­ior oleo­gels

Oleogels (a.k.a. organogels) are lipid-based materials that contain 85 – 99.5% of liquid oil whereas the rest is structuring molecules called oleogelators. They were introduced as saturated and hydrogenated fat substitutes to fight the adverse effects of excessive fat consumption in the diet, such as obesity. Obesity is a global problem that nowadays involves billion of adults and millions of children. Unfortunately, oleogels still lack in matching saturated and hydrogenated fats properties which impedes oleogels from becoming the “fat of the future”. Much effort has been directed to modify oleogel nano- and microstructure through i.e. modification of the formulation, application of different cooling and heating cycles, application of shear during oleogel formation.

To obtain oleogels with finely tuned nano and microstructure it is necessary to carefully control the forming crystalline network without inducing adverse effects. Such control is not attainable using the state-of-the-art technology used to tailor oleogel and fat structures.

We develop new technologies to obtain oleogels with a customizable microstructure without jeopardizing their health properties (avoiding i.e. oxidation of oil). These new technologies can help matching the desired nano- and microstructural properties and thus possibly speed up the replacement of saturated and hydrogenated fats in food products.


Functional oleogels for body weight control

The iOLEO project aims to develop a new class of functional oleogels with tailored digestibility that can help address the current global burden of obesity

iOLEO team: Tiago Pinto, Fabio Valoppi (PI)

Funder: University of Helsinki

Project duration: 05/04/2021 – 04/04/2024


Engineered oleogels for bodyweight management

The ENGEL project aims to engineer the structure of oleogels obtaining a non-invasive long-term body weight management tool

ENGEL team: Satu Kirjoranta, Teemu Aitta-Aho, Fabio Valoppi (PI)

Funder: Jane and Aatos Erkko Foundation

Project duration: 01/04/2021 – 31/03/2023


Ultrasonic standing waves as a new tool for improved oleogels

The ULTRA-OLEO project aims to develop a new, economic, and environmentally friendly technology that can modify the structure of oleogels to prolong oleogel storage stability, bringing together food science, acoustic physics and engineering

ULTRA-OLEO team: Petri Lassila, Oskari Tommiska, Jere Hyvönen, Ari Salmi, Edward Haeggström, Fabio Valoppi (PI)

Funder: European Commission - H2020 - Marie Skłodowska Curie Individual Fellowship

Project duration: 01/09/2020 – 31/08/2022


Green route to wood-derived Janus particles for stabilized interfaces

Stabilized emulsions are useful in many industrial processes including drug delivery and food technology. The EU-funded PARTIFACE project aims to develop highly functional stabilizers drawing on sustainable materials such as those derived by biomass. In particular, the project will use two abundant (yet poorly exploited) biopolymers – lignin and hemicelluloses – to produce a novel type of Janus particles called bifacial Janus particles. PARTIFACE researchers expect these tailored wood-based particles, where the two ‘faces’ of a particle have opposite properties, to demonstrate superior capacity for stabilizing emulsion interfaces. Producing such sophisticated hierarchical architectures through sustainable routes will herald a breakthrough in interface and colloid science, contributing to more sustainable use of the Earth’s resources.

PARTIFACE team: Patrícia Figueiredo, Danila Morais de Carvalho, Milla Koponen, Kristiina Hilden, Maarit Lahtinen, Kirsi S. Mikkonen (PI)

Funder: European Research Council

Project duration: 01/06/2020 → 31/05/2025


Visualizing the interfacial layer of submicron emulsions for tailored morphology

The ENVISION project will characterize emulsion interface morphology. This enables intelligent design of interfacial structures in high precision aiming at extended stability and controlled release of emulsified lipids.

ENVISION team: Felix Abik, Thao Ho, Emilie Ressouche, Kirsi S. Mikkonen (PI)

Funder: The Academy of Finland

Project duration: 01/09/2019 → 31/08/2023


Novel digital tools for food science

The iFOOD project aims to foster the development of sustainable foods by establishing a novel digital tool featuring finite element method (FEM) simulation and artificial intelligence (AI).

iFOOD team: Oskari Tommiska, Petri Lassila, Ari Salmi, Arto Klami, Edward Haeggström, Fabio Valoppi (PI)

Funder: HELSUS

Project duration: 01/01/2021 – 31/12/2021


Functional oleogels with health enhancing ability

The FUN-OLEO project aims to develop a new type of oleogel able to improve the health of consumers on the long run

FUN-OLEO team: Afsane Kazerani Garcia, Satu Kirjoranta, Fabio Valoppi (PI)

Funder: HiLIFE

Project duration: 01/01/2020 – 31/08/2021


Acous­tic waves as a new tail­or­ing tool for lipid-based oleo­gels

The NEW-WAVE project aims to develop a new, economic, and environmentally friendly technology that can finely and precisely modify the structure of oleogels.

NEW-WAVE team: Edward Haeggström, Kirsi S. Mikkonen, Vieno Piironen, Ari Salmi, Anna-Maija Lampi, Simo Huotari, Kirsi Svedström, Tuomas Puranen, Joni Mäkinen, Oskari Tommiska, Miika Ratilainen, Fabio Valoppi (PI).

Funder: Academy of Finland

Project duration:  01/09/2018 → 31/08/2021


Water-in-oleogel emulsions as vitamin B12 delivery and protective systems for plant-based products

The B-GELS project aims to develop a substitute for saturated and hydrogenated fats, that is a water-in-oleogel emulsion, rich in EFA and able to deliver and protect vitamin B12

B-GELS team: Ana Debel, Helmi Lamminmäki, Bhawani Chamlagain (Co-PI), Fabio Valoppi (Co-PI)

Funder: Faculty of Agriculture and Forestry, University of Helsinki

Project duration: 01/09/2020 – 31/12/2020


Role of car­bo­hydrate com­plexes as key to stable emul­sions

The ROCK project celebrates the 100th year anniversary of Finland, being a gift from Sweden. The research is done in collaboration with Assoc. Prof. Martin Lawoko, KTH, Stockholm.

University of Helsinki ROCK team: Danila Morais de Carvalho, Maarit Lahtinen, Kirsi S. Mikkonen (PI)

Funder: The Royal Swedish Academy of Agriculture and Forestry (KSLA)

Project duration:  01/11/2018 → 31/10/2020


Food lipid in­ter­faces sta­bil­azed by xy­lan- and beta­glu­can -rich cer­eal residues

The FOODLIPS project valorizes agricultural side steams for hydrocolloids.

FOODLIPS team: Anis Arzami, Elli Pulkkinen, Yujie Wang, Fabio Valoppi, Kirsi S. Mikkonen (PI)

Funder: Lantmännen Research Foundation

Project duration:  01/05/2018 → 30/04/2020





Power­ful bioeco­nom­ic­ally com­pat­ible emul­si­fi­ers

The EMPOWER project takes the next steps after basic research, necessary towards the commercialization of spruce galactoglucomannans as emulsion stabilizers.

EMPOWER team: Fabio Valoppi, Leena Pitkänen, Satu Kirjoranta, Roberta Miglioli, Marja Allen, Kirsi S. Mikkonen (PI)

Academic advisors: Marina Heinonen (University of Helsinki), Stefan Willför (Åbo Akademi)

Industrial advisors from: Fazer, Montisera, Stora Enso, Teampac, Valio

Funder: Academy of Finland (Key Project)

Project duration:  01/10/2016 → 30/09/2018


Novel bio­mass-based solu­tions for tech­nical emul­sions

We characterize the functionality of wood hemicelluloses as stabilizers in technical emulsions.

Academic project partner: Stefan Willför, Åbo Akademi 

University of Helsinki BITE team: Satu Kirjoranta, Mamata Bhattarai, Mari Lehtonen, Maija Tenkanen, Kirsi S. Mikkonen (PI of the University of Helsinki team)

Funder: TEKES

Project duration: 01/09/2016 → 28/02/2018


Novel WOOD-de­rived emul­si­fi­ers for su­per­ior lipid sta­bil­iz­a­tion

The WOODLIPS project reveals the mechanisms of wood hemicelluloses as emulsion stabilizers, in physical and chemical perspective.

WOODLIPS team: Mari Lehtonen, Maarit Lahtinen, Hongbo Zhao, Min Wang, Emmi Junttila, Kirsi S. Mikkonen (PI)

Funder: Jane and Aatos Erkko Foundation

Project duration:  01/01/2016 → 31/12/2018


Val­or­iz­a­tion of WOOD biore­finery products into novel func­tional hy­dro­col­loids

With the Nordic consortium, we work towards valorizing wood hemicelluloses and nanocelluloses in advanced applications.

Academic project partners: Kristiina Oksman, Technical University of Luleå and Kristin Syverud, PFI-RISE

University of Helsinki WOOD-PRO team: Mamata Bhattarai, Hongbo Zhao, Ida Nikkilä, Kirsi S. Mikkonen (PI)

Funder: Nordic Forest Research

Project duration:  01/01/2016 → 31/12/2018

Nordic Forest Research