WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – “Like oil and water” doesn’t apply just to personal relationships that aren’t working. It also applies to the challenges scientists face when combining spices and other products that conventionally do not mix well in producing improved drugs, foods and cosmetics.
Scientists at Purdue University have developed patented technology to help combine oil and water with other natural elements to produce better drugs, cosmetics and foods. Some of those foods and cosmetics use additives such as clove, mint, cinnamon and pumpkin spice.
The Purdue team created a method to mix small, encapsulated essential oil compounds in water without changing the appearance of the water.
“Our method has many applications to readily combine flavoring agents, aroma-rich essential oils and fat-soluble vitamins with food, beverages, drugs and cosmetics,” said Nathan Mosier, the Indiana Soybean Alliance Soybean Utilization Endowed Chair in Purdue’s Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering, who led the development of the technology.
Mosier mix water
The Purdue University team created a method to mix small, encapsulated essential oil compounds in water without changing the appearance of the water. (Image provided)
The Purdue method involves a combination of active compounds, vegetable oil and surfactants, which are compounds that lower the surface tension between two liquids.
“Our unique combination allows things such as essential oils to be water-compatible for use in product and drug development,” Mosier said. “Usually, when you mix oils and water, you end up with them separating or creating a cloudy mess. Our method still leads to the water looking clear because the droplets are nanoscale and not affected by visible light.”
Mosier said the Purdue method is cost-effective and uses a small amount of energy. He said it also requires little training to understand the method.
The researchers also are working with entomology researchers at Purdue to develop the method for applications with insecticides and sprays to stop bed bugs.
Mosier and the other researchers worked with the Purdue Research Foundation Office of Technology Commercialization to patent the new method. For more information on licensing a Purdue innovation, contact the Office of Technology Commercialization at otcip@prf.org and reference track code 2019-MOSI-68682.
About Purdue Research Foundation Office of Technology Commercialization

The Purdue Research Foundation Office of Technology Commercialization operates one of the most comprehensive technology transfer programs among leading research universities in the U.S. Services provided by this office support the economic development initiatives of Purdue University and benefit the university's academic activities. The office is managed by the Purdue Research Foundation, which received the 2016 Innovation and Economic Prosperity Universities Award for Innovation from the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities. To learn about licensing a Purdue innovation, contact the Office of Technology Commercialization at otcip@prf.org. The Purdue Research Foundation is a private, nonprofit foundation created to advance the mission of Purdue University.