Binds Moisture – Carrageenan has excellent moisture binding capabilities. This allows formulators to manage water and other aqueous fluids in their systems.
Stabilizes Emulsions – Although carrageenan is not a surfactant, it will stabilize existing emulsions. Its thickening and thixotropic properties give integrity to the system and inhibit the oil from coalescing and separating into an oil phase and water phase.
Suspends Particles – The 3-dimensional network which helps stabilize emulsions also functions to suspend particulates. Insolubles will remain uniformly distributed in the bottle for extended periods without remixing or shaking.
Controls Flow Properties – Controlling flow properties of food systems is essential from processing to the final product consistency. Carrageenan is thermally-reversible, so at high temperatures it will impart minimal viscosity, allowing for easier processing conditions and improved heat transfer. Upon cooling the carrageenan will thicken. With most gelling carrageenans, solutions will begin to solidify and form gels when cooled below 49°C (120°F).
Produces Stable Gels at Room Temperature – Most kappa and iota carrageenan solutions will set into a gel structure at ambient temperatures. The gels require heat to melt into a fluid state for reprocessing.
Generally, carrageenan should be dispersed in cold water and then heated above the solubility temperature of the carrageenan to obtain maximum functionality. There are several other methods of incorporating carrageenan into complex systems or processes that allows it to offer optimum functionality.
Upon cooling and in the presence of appropriate cations, kappa and iota carrageenan polymers align themselves to form individual helices. These helices can further associate with divalent cations that are present, e.g. calcium, to form a gel matrix. Figure 6 (below) is a schematic representation of the gelling mechanism for carrageenan.