A Nonionic Polyethylene Oxide (PEO) Surfactant Model: Experimental and Molecular Dynamics Studies of Kolliphor EL

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Polyethoxylated, nonionic surfactants are important constituents of many drug formulations, including lipid-based formulations. In an effort to better understand the behavior of formulation excipients at the molecular level, we have developed molecular dynamics (MD) models for the widely used surfactant Kolliphor EL (KOL), a triricinoleate ester of ethoxylated glycerol. In this work, we have developed models based on a single, representative molecular component modeled with 2 force field variations based on the GROMOS 53A6DBW and 2016H66 force field parameters for polyethoxylate chains. To compare the computational models to experimental measurements, we investigated the phase behavior of KOL using nephelometry, dynamic light scattering, cross-polarized microscopy, small-angle X-ray scattering, and cryogenic transmission electron microscopy. The potential for digestion of KOL was also evaluated using an in vitro digestion experiment. We found that the size and spherical morphology of the KOL colloids at low concentrations was reproduced by the MD models as well as the growing interactions between the aggregates to from rod-like structures at high concentrations. We believe that this model reproduces the phase behavior of KOL relevant to drug absorption and that it can be used in whole formulation simulations to accelerate the formulation development.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)193-204
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Pharmaceutical Sciences
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2019


  • cryogenic transmission electron microscopy
  • dynamic light scattering
  • molecular dynamics
  • phase transition
  • small-angle X-ray scattering
  • surfactant

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