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Carrageenan / Introduction

Carrageenan is a naturally-occurring family of carbohydrates extracted from red seaweed. From this natural source, FMCBioPolymer develops and customizes blends of carrageenans for specific gelling, thickening, and stabilizing properties.

FMC BioPolymer is the largest and most experienced producer of carrageenan extracts worldwide. During the past 60 years,FMC BioPolymer has established a tradition for providing high quality carrageenans, technical expertise, and service.

FMC BioPolymer builds quality and performance into its carrageenan products at three levels—seaweed sourcing, extract manufacturing, and understanding and tailoring the functional properties of each product.

The Three Basic Types of Carrageenan

Kappa carrageenan

  • Soluble in hot water
  • The addition of potassium ions induces the formation of a durable, brittle gel; it also increases the gelling and melting temperatures.
  • Strong, rigid gel, some syneresis, forms helix with K+ ions.  Ca++ causes helices to aggregate and the gel to contract and become brittle.
  • Slightly opaque gel. Becomes clear with sugar.
  • Approximately 25% ester sulfate and 34% 3,6-AG
  • Compatible with water miscible solvents
  • Insoluble in most organic solvents
  • Typical use levels — 0.02 to 2.0%

Iota carrageenan

  • Dilute solutions exhibit thixotropic characteristics
  • Soluble in hot water; sodium iota carrageenan is soluble in cold and hot water
  • The addition of calcium ions will induce the formation of a durable, elastic gel, and increase gelling and melting temperatures.
  • Elastic gels, forms helix with Ca++.   Limited aggregation contributes to elasticity, no syneresis.
  • Clear gel
  • Freeze/thaw stable
  • Insoluble in most organic solvents
  • Approximately 32% ester sulfate and 30% 3,6-AG
  • Typical use levels range from 0.2 to 2.0%

Lambda carrageenan

  • Free flowing, non-gelling pseudo-plastic solutions in water
  • Partially soluble in cold water, fully soluble in hot water
  • No gel, random distribution of polymer chains
  • Range from low to high viscosity
  • Addition of cations has little effect on viscosity
  • Compatible with water miscible solvents
  • Insoluble in most organic solvents
  • Stable over a wide range of temperatures, including freeze/thaw cycles
  • Soluble in 5% salt solution, hot or cold
  • Approximately 35% ester sulfate and little or no 3,6-AG
  • Typical use level — 0.1 to 1.0%