Background: Polysaccharides and their derivatives are increasingly being used by the food, cosmetic and pharmaceutical industries: physical properties like size and conformation are important contributors to their performance. Discussion: Here the use of hydrodynamic tools such as sedimentation velocity, sedimentation equilibrium, size exclusion chromatography - multi-angle light scattering (SEC-MALS), and viscometry are considered highlighting some recent developments in methodology and the application of these to help better understand polysaccharide structure-function relationships. Conclusions: The size and shape of polysaccharides in solution can be estimated in a variety of ways. Molar masses and heterogeneities can be estimated to a good precision by sedimentation velocity, sedimentation equilibrium and SEC-MALS. An approximate idea of conformation and flexibility can be obtained from power-law coefficients and the Wales van Holde parameter. More sophisticated estimates can be obtained by combining methods together to yield the persistence length.
Morris, G. A., Adams, G. G., & Harding, S. E. (2014). On hydrodynamic methods for the analysis of the sizes and shapes of polysaccharides in dilute solution: A short review. Food Hydrocolloids, 42(P3), 318-334. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.foodhyd.2014.04.014