In this study, the innovative and multifunctional nanoparticles–hydrogel nanocomposites made with chitosan hydrogel beads and solid lipid–polymer hybrid nanoparticles (SLPN) were prepared through conjugation between SLPN and chitosan beads. The SLPNs were first fabricated via coating the bovine serum albumin (BSA)-emulsified solid lipid nanoparticles with oxidized dextran. The aldehyde groups of the oxidized dextran on the surface of the SLPN enabled an in situ conjugation with the chitosan beads through the Schiff base linkage. The obtained nano-on-beads composite exhibited a spherical shape with a homogeneous size distribution. The successful conjugation of SLPN on the chitosan beads was confirmed by a Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy and a scanning electron microscope. The effects of the beads dosage (50, 100, 200, and 300 beads) and the incubation duration (30, 60, 90, 120, and 150 min) on the conjugation efficiency of SLPN onto the beads were comprehensively optimized. The optimal formulations were found to be a 200 bead dosage, with 30–90 min incubation duration groups. The optimal formulations were then used to encapsulate thymol, an antibacterial agent, which was studied as a model compound. After encapsulation, the thymol exhibited sustained release profiles in the phosphate buffer saline. The as-prepared nanoparticles–hydrogel nanocomposites reported in this proof-of-concept study hold promising features as a controlled-release antibacterial approach for improving food safety.
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