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Exploring the chance to convert biowaste into a valuable resource, this study tests the potential role of humic acids (HA), a class of multifunctional compounds obtained by oxidative decomposition of biomass, as physical agents to improve gelatin's mechanical and thermal properties. To this purpose, gelatin-HA aqueous samples were prepared at increasing HA content. HA/gelatin concentrations changed in the range 2.67-26.67 (wt/wt)%. Multiple techniques were employed to assess the influence of HA content on the gel properties and to unveil the underlying mechanisms. HAs increased gel strength up to a concentration of 13.33 (wt/wt)% and led to a weaker gel at higher concentrations. FT-IR and DSC results proved that HAs can establish noncovalent interactions through H-bonding with gelatin. Coagulation phenomena occur because of HA-gelatin interactions, and at concentrations greater than 13.33 (wt/wt)%, HAs established preferential bonds with water molecules, preventing them from coordinating with gelatin chains. These features were accompanied by a change in the secondary structure of gelatin, which lost the triple helix structure and exhibited an increase in the random coil conformation. Besides, higher HA weight content caused swelling phenomena due to HA water absorption, contributing to a weaker gel. The current findings may be useful to enable a better control of gelatin structures modified with composted biowaste, extending their exploitation for a large set of technological applications.


Virginia Venezia, Pietro Renato Avallone, Giuseppe Vitiello, Brigida Silvestri, Nino Grizzuti, Rossana Pasquino, Giuseppina Luciani. Adding Humic Acids to Gelatin Hydrogels: A Way to Tune Gelation. Biomacromolecules. 2022 Jan 10;23(1):443-453

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PMID: 34936338

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