A method capable of determining the interfacial tension (γ) of individual emulsified liquid drops has been investigated and applied to a study of the surface properties of milk fat globules. Measurements on several organic liquids in bulk against water were made to validate and standardize the technique. With one exception, results agreed well with literature values, but the reproducibility of measurements was not as good as that of other, standard, methods. Measurements performed on small drops were affected by several factors and precision was not high.
The influence of different milk treatments upon the interfacial tension of milk fat globules was studied. Agitation of milk had the effect of increasing γ while the effect was reversed upon allowing agitated milk to stand. Dilution of normal milk with water resulted in an increase in γ while acidification and alkalization produced a decrease. Pasteurization of raw milk caused a slight, non-significant decrease. Values of γ were low, 1–2 mN m-1, irrespective of the nature of the milk treatment and were an order of magnitude smaller than those obtained for interfaces of butter oil and milk protein solutions. The results support the concept of a 2-layer membrane and suggest that changes in γ follow mainly the adsorption/desorption of surface active components in the outer hydrophilic layer of the globule membrane. An inner, firmly bound lipophilic layer, resistant to many different milk treatments, appears to determine the overall low γ value under most conditions.