The effect of surfactant surface coverage on formation and stability of Tween 20 stabilized tripalmitin solid lipid nanoparticles (SLN) was investigated. A lipid phase (10% w/w tripalmitin) and an aqueous phase (2% w/w Tween 20, 10 mM phosphate buffer, pH 7) were heated to 75 degrees C and then homogenized using a microfluidizer. The resulting oil-in-water emulsion was kept at a temperature (37 degrees C) above the crystallization temperature of the tripalmitin to prevent solidification of emulsion droplets, and additional surfactant at various concentrations (0-5% w/w Tween 20) was added. Droplets were then cooled to 5 degrees C to initiate crystallization and stored at 20 degrees C for 24 h. Particle size and/or aggregation were examined visually and by light scattering, and crystallization behavior was examined by differential scanning calorimetry (DSC). Excess Tween 20 concentration remaining in the aqueous phase was measured by surface tensiometry. Emulsion droplets after homogenization had a mean particle diameter of 134.1+/-2.0 nm and a polydispersity index of 0.08+/-0.01. After cooling to 5 degrees C at low Tween 20 concentrations, SLN dispersions rapidly gelled due to aggregation of particles driven by hydrophobic attraction between insufficiently covered lipid crystal surfaces. Upon addition of 1-5% w/w Tween 20, SLN dispersions became increasingly stable. At low added Tween 20 concentration (<1% w/w) the SLN formed gels but only increased slightly at higher surfactant concentrations (>1% w/w). The Tween 20 concentration in the aqueous phase decreased after tripalmitin crystallization suggesting additional surfactant adsorption onto solid surfaces. At higher Tween 20 concentrations, SLN had increasingly complex crystal structures as evidenced by the appearance of additional thermal transition peaks in the DSC. The results suggest that surfactant coverage at the interface may influence crystal structure and stability of solid lipid nanoparticles via surface-mediated crystal growth.
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