# How gels and gelling agents work

1. Nov 6, 2011

### CrimpJiggler

I'm trying to learn what exactly gelling agents are, what they do and how they do it. A good place to start would be to learn what gels are, I read the wikipedia page on gels:
https://secure.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/wiki/Gel
and am pretty fascinated now. So gels are actually mixtures containing a solid skeletal structure which completely ensnares liquid inside its 3D structure? I assume then that gelling agents are the solid compounds that do the ensnaring. I notice that all the gelling agents I've heard of so far are polymers but I just came across this article:
http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qa5350/is_200309/ai_n21336329/
which talks about small, low molecular weight gelling agents so I see now that its not just long chained polymers that can form these 3D cages for liquids. I can't find enough info on the chemistry of gels and gelling agents to get my head around the whole concept so I'll have to ask some questions. I read there that those novel low MW gelling agents hold the 3D cage together with weak intermolecular forces while classical gelling agents hold it together with covalent bonds. Are the classical gelling agents all polymers? If so do they have to be highly branched to act as gelling agents?

Last edited: Nov 6, 2011