The impact of ultraviolet (UV) irradiation on the physicochemical and functional properties of gum arabic was investigated. Gum arabic samples were exposed to UV irradiation for 30, 60, 90, and 120 min; gum arabic was also treated with formaldehyde for comparison. Molecular weight analysis using gel permeation chromatography indicated that no significant changes occurred on the molecular structure on the samples exposed to UV irradiation. Free amino group analysis indicated that mild UV irradiation (30 min) could induce cross-linking on gum arabic; this result was comparable with that of samples treated with formaldehyde. However, viscosity break down was observed for samples exposed to UV irradiation for longer times (90 and 120 min). All irradiated and formaldehyde-treated samples exhibited better emulsification properties than unirradiated samples. These results indicate that UV-irradiated gum arabic could be a better emulsifier than the native (unmodified) gum arabic and could be exploited commercially.
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