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Nanoemulsion: An Overview and Contemporary Application

Nanoemulsion are a type of emulsion, a system where two immiscible liquids are mixed together, with one of the liquids dispersed in the other in the form of very small droplets, typically in the nanometer range (10 to 200 nm) (How to determine Particle Size?). Thanks to their small size, these droplets provide certain unique properties to Nanoemulsion, making them valuable in various fields like food, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, and biotechnology.

Nanoemulsion: An Overview and Contemporary Application
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Composition and Preparation of Nanoemulsion

Nanoemulsion generally consist of oil, water, and emulsifier. The oil and water constitute the two main phases of the emulsion, while the emulsifier is added to stabilize the system by reducing the interfacial tension between the oil and water phases.

Several methods can be used to produce Nanoemulsion, including high-energy methods like ultrasonication, high-pressure homogenization, and microfluidization, and low-energy methods such as phase inversion temperature, spontaneous emulsification, and self-emulsification. The choice of method depends on several factors, such as the nature of the oil and emulsifier, the desired droplet size, and the intended application of the Nanoemulsion.

Composition of Nanoemulsion

The primary components of nanoemulsion are oil, water, and an emulsifier, with each component playing a crucial role.

Composition of Nanoemulsion
Composition of Nanoemulsion
  1. Oil Phase: The oil phase generally comprises lipophilic substances. The selection of oil is crucial, as it may affect the solubilization capacity of lipophilic compounds, the final product’s stability, and its bioavailability. The oil phase can be made of mineral oils, vegetable oils, or semi-synthetic medium chain triglycerides.
  2. Aqueous Phase: The aqueous phase is typically water or a water-soluble solvent, depending on the formulation’s purpose. This phase can also contain hydrophilic active ingredients, preservatives, and other components, depending on the specific application.
  3. Emulsifiers: Emulsifiers are essential for creating and stabilizing nanoemulsion. They reduce the interfacial tension between oil and water, facilitating the formation of nanosized droplets. Emulsifiers can be synthetic or natural and may be non-ionic, cationic, or anionic, depending on the required formulation properties.
  4. Co-surfactants: Sometimes, co-surfactants are also used in the formation of Nanoemulsion. They help the surfactant in stabilizing the oil-water interface, enhancing the flexibility of the interfacial film and thus reducing the surface tension to a greater extent (Role of Surfactant in Emulsion Stabilization).

Preparation of Nanoemulsion

There are two principal methodologies for preparing nanoemulsion: high-energy and low-energy methods.

Preparation of Nanoemulsion
Preparation of Nanoemulsion
  1. High-Energy Emulsification: These methods involve the use of mechanical devices that provide enough energy to disperse the oil phase into the aqueous phase in the form of nanosized droplets. Examples of high-energy methods include high-pressure homogenization, ultrasonication, and microfluidization.
    • High-Pressure Homogenization: This is one of the most commonly used methods for producing nanoemulsions. The process involves forcing the mixture of oil, water, and emulsifier through a narrow gap at high pressure, which causes intense disruptive forces that lead to the formation of nanosized droplets.
    • Ultrasonication: In this method, ultrasonic waves are used to create intense shear and turbulence, which break down the oil droplets into nanosized droplets.
    • Microfluidization: In microfluidization, the energy is applied through a device called a microfluidizer, which forces the mixture through an interaction chamber where it is subjected to high velocity and pressure, resulting in the formation of nanosized droplets.
  2. Low-Energy Emulsification: These methods rely on the spontaneous formation of nanoemulsions due to changes in the system’s physicochemical parameters such as temperature or composition. Examples include phase inversion temperature, spontaneous emulsification, and self-emulsification.
    • Phase Inversion Temperature: This method is based on changing the emulsion type from oil-in-water to water-in-oil (or vice versa) by varying the temperature. At the phase inversion point, small droplets are formed due to the minimum interfacial tension.
    • Spontaneous Emulsification: Here, an oil/surfactant mixture is poured into the water while stirring. The resulting spontaneous formation of nanosized droplets is due to the entropy increase associated with the dispersion of the oil phase into the water.
    • Self-Emulsification: Self-emulsifying systems are isotropic mixtures of oil and surfactant(s) which, upon mild agitation following dilution in an aqueous medium, such as gastrointestinal fluids, can form a fine oil-in-water (o/w) emulsion.
    • The choice between high-energy and low-energy methods depends on various factors, including the nature of the oil and surfactant, the intended application of the Nanoemulsion, and the required droplet size and distribution. Often, a combination of high-energy and low-energy methods can be used to optimize the properties of the Nanoemulsion.
    • However, it’s crucial to note that while these processes create Nanoemulsion, maintaining their stability can be a challenge. To ensure the stability of Nanoemulsion, several strategies can be employed, such as using a combination of emulsifiers, adjusting the pH, or adding viscosity enhancers or other stabilizing agents.
    • In conclusion, the composition and preparation of Nanoemulsion are key steps that require careful selection and control of the components and process parameters. With a good understanding of these aspects, it is possible to produce Nanoemulsion with properties that are suitable for a wide range of applications.

Properties of Nanoemulsion

The nano-sized droplets in Nanoemulsion give them several distinctive properties. First, they have a large surface area to volume ratio, which can enhance the rate of transport of the dispersed phase into the surrounding medium. Second, their small size can increase the stability of the emulsion by reducing the likelihood of phenomena such as creaming, sedimentation, and coalescence. Finally, their nanoscale size allows them to interact with biological systems at the molecular level, which can be beneficial for applications such as drug delivery.

Applications of Nanoemulsion

Food Industry

In the food industry, Nanoemulsion are commonly used to encapsulate, protect, and deliver bioactive ingredients like vitamins, antioxidants, and essential oils. They can also improve the taste, texture, appearance, and shelf-life of food products.

Pharmaceutical Industry

Nanoemulsion are a promising tool in the pharmaceutical industry, where they can be used for the delivery of a wide range of drugs. Because of their small size and high surface area, they can enhance the solubility, bioavailability, and stability of drugs, especially those that are poorly soluble in water.

Cosmetics and Personal Care

Nanoemulsion are widely used in the cosmetics and personal care industry for the delivery of active ingredients. They can enhance the absorption of these ingredients into the skin, thereby improving their efficacy. They can also improve the sensory properties of cosmetic products, making them more pleasing to use.


In the field of biotechnology, Nanoemulsion can be used for the encapsulation and delivery of enzymes, proteins, and other bioactive compounds. They can also be used for the production of nanoparticles and nanostructured materials.

Challenges and Future Directions

Despite their many advantages, there are still several challenges associated with the use of Nanoemulsion. These include the choice of suitable emulsifiers, the stability of the emulsions over time, and the safety of their consumption, especially when they are used for the delivery of bioactive compounds. However, with ongoing research and technological advances, it is expected that these challenges will be overcome, paving the way for new and innovative applications of Nanoemulsion.


Nanoemulsion, thanks to their unique properties and versatility, have found widespread applications in various industries. Ongoing research in this field is likely to unlock even more potential uses, making Nanoemulsion an exciting area of study with great future potential. However, it is essential to continue researching their safety and stability to ensure that they can be used effectively and safely in different applications.

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