The molecular packing of bidisperse matrixes of amorphous carbohydrates consisting of a fractionated maltopolymer supplemented with various amounts of the disaccharide maltose is investigated by combining Positron Annihilation Lifetime Spectroscopy (PALS) with specific volume measurements. The maltopolymer-maltose blends are equilibrated at a range of water activities between 0 and 0.75 at 25 degrees C in order to investigate the effect of water content and carbohydrate molecular weight distribution on the size of the molecular free volume holes in both the glassy and rubbery states. In the rubbery state, the size of the intermolecular holes is only very weakly dependent on the carbohydrate molecular weight, provided that the carbohydrate blends are analyzed at the same water content. In contrast, in the glassy state, significant differences in the size of the free volume holes are observed between the various blends at constant water content. Both the specific volume and the hole volume decrease with increasing maltose content, initially rapidly up to a maltose content of about 40 wt % on total carbohydrate. In addition, we find that the role of water as a plasticizer and matrix constituent is a complex one. At very low water contents, water acts by filling the free volume holes between the carbohydrate molecules. This hole-filling mechanism could well be related to the phenomenon of anti-plasticization observed before. At higher water contents, corresponding generally to water activities above 0.11 at 25 degrees C, water conversely increases the average hole volume in the carbohydrate matrixes, most likely caused by water interfering with the hydrogen bonding between the carbohydrate molecules, leading to a local expansion of the molecular packing.
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