Heat fatigue is experienced much quicker in hot and humid conditions than in moderate climates, restricting athletic performance. Recent research in the field of sport science has shown that menthol, a known topical analgesic found naturally in mint oil, can help improve athletic performance in these conditions: the application of menthol to the skin during exercise bouts provides a cooling sensation. However, menthol has very poor solubility in water and in high concentrations can be irritating to the skin. Therefore, to form a solution that can carry and deliver the menthol at an effective but safe concentration during these exercise bouts requires a solubilizer or surfactant. The resulting solution will be clear and will be thermodynamically and kinetically stable: a microemulsion. Microemulsions are systems of water, oil and amphiphile that form spontaneously due to a low interfacial tension and high entropy. This presentation will review the current literature on the use of menthol in sport science, highlighting the demand for these systems, and it will also introduce microemulsions, explaining their properties.
Thomas Chalker is a Master-by-research (MRes) student in the Department of Mathematical and Physical Sciences. His supervisor is Dr Gavin Hazell. Thomas will be presenting his research at part of his MRes coursework requirement.