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Oleogel Testing Experiment Update – The First Round of Data is in!

September 10, 2021

While it’s fair to say I’m not always the best at reading the room, I would put a good deal of money on me being right that most of you have NOT been joining me in my excitement driven sleepless nights waiting for this data. That said, this project is turning out to be very interesting and likely to provide insights that can spread further and wider than my oleogel under pressure!

So what’s been going on and what am I talking about?

If you didn’t watch the part 1 video go do it now as that will get you on the right page. For those that watched it but can’t remember it (or would rather forget) I am investigating the strength of oleogels both ‘naked’ (unpackaged) and in different types of packaging – plastic, glass, metal and cardboard. I’m doing this for many reasons, not least because many brands are trying to reduce packaging waste by choosing eco-friendly options such as cardboard over plastic. As a formulator, teacher and science communicator I want to explore these consequences in an applied way. So often when you look for science data it’s talking about a single component – say oleogels as a thing or packaging as a thing. By investigating the relationship under stress (some might say all relationships are stressful…) between both the packaging AND the contents I’m producing APPLIED data. Applied data in this case means data that we can APPLY (or use) in our real-life scenarios so when we are trying to work out the pro’s and con’s of choosing this over that container.

Why Oleogels?

Oleogels are weird, that’s why. They have no continuous structure to them which should mean they are floppy, sloppy and leaky but they are generally not, well not all the time. It’s this complexity and weirdness that fascinates me. Their structure changes over time, when you make them different ways and as they respond to stresses and strains. It’s almost like they are emotional little flowers!

In all seriousness oleogel physics are just very interesting. I am leaning towards using Ice (not the drug, no need to panic mum) as a comparrison model as that seems to have similar properties. Oleogels have a crystaline internal structure that can be described as fractal in nature. They also have fluid regions that can leak when the crystals grow big and/or numerous enough. They have regions that generally stay quite fluid thus creating a constant shift in the internal landscape that us cosmetic chemists try to control, often unsuccessfully.

I don’t know about you but I’ve looked back on some of the oleogel formulations I’ve made over the years and found samples that have developed a gem-stone like crystaline structure to them as the balm aged. I’ve also had balms that became so hard over time that you couldn’t use them at all. Balms that split into oily and waxy parts and balms that bounce! When does an emulsion ever give you that much entertainment and confusion?

I also like oleogels because it’s a chemistry that beginners make because it seems simple – just blend wax and oil and you are done! I quite like the way nature has of sticking its fingers up at us and saying ‘you may think I’m simple but I’m going to kick your ass’. Sure, not every oleogel is as tempremental as a teenager with no internet but I’m not interested in those ones, I want these 🙂

Where I’m at with testing.

This round of testing is still in the process development stage so while I’m collecting statistically significant data it’s taking rather a lot of tests to reach that point – ideally I’d be doing 20 rounds of testing per variable rather than 40-60. I will repeat these tests with a slightly modified process to reduce the variability in my data while maintaining its significance (just in case you were wondering). That ‘optimisation’ will then make it possible and practical to run this sort of testing on your products should you want it.

The rest of the information is in this video including some more information about how I’m handling the data I’m producing and how I’m making sure my strength comparrisons are fair and as accurate as possible. There’s a lot of maths involved and I’m just hoping I chose the right equations for this data – I am also going to check that with a physics expert before moving to the next stage.

My hope in sharing this journey with you is that you will start to understand and maybe value the process of ‘doing’ science a bit more. That you may invest more of your own time in running controlled experiments and analysing the data you produce. Finally and importantly given that this is a business, I’m hoping that in sharing this I can demonstrate to you the value of knowing the applied strength of your oleogels and how this data can help you with your own R&D.

Thanks for watching.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. September 11, 2021 8:44 am

    Ain’t science great…. good work

  2. Mary permalink
    September 14, 2021 11:26 am

    Thank you for always digging deep–showing the importance of following science and being thorough. AND you somehow manage to entertain along the way. Even if I wasn’t interested in the subject, your posts are always a treat!

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