Comparing surfactant structures at "soft" and "hard" hydrophobic materials: not all interfaces are equivalent

Zengyi Wei, Stefania Piantavigna, Stephen A. Holt, Andrew Nelson, Patrick T. Spicer, Stuart W. Prescott

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6 Citations (Scopus)


The interfacial structures of a range of amphiphilic molecules are studied with both "soft" and "hard" hydrophobic substrates. Neutron reflection and quartz crystal microbalance with dissipation measurements highlight the differences between the adsorbed structures adopted by sodium dodecyl sulfate (SDS), cetyltrimethylammonium bromide (C16TAB), and the "AM1" surface active peptide. At the soft siloxane/water interface, small molecular surfactants form loosely packed layers, with the hydrophobic tails penetrating into the oily layer, and an area per surfactant molecule that is significantly less than previously reported for the air/water interface. Neutron reflection measurements, supported by quartz crystal microbalance studies, indicate that for C16TAB, approximately 30 ± 8% of the alkyl tail penetrates into the poly(dimethylsiloxane) (PDMS) layer, whereas 20 ± 5% of the alkyl tail of SDS is located in the PDMS. For the engineered peptide surfactant AM1 (21 residues), it was found that one face of the α helix penetrated into the PDMS film. In contrast, penetration of the surfactant tails was not observed against hard solidlike hydrophobic surfaces made from octadecyltrichlorosilane (OTS) for any of the molecular species studied. At the OTS/water interface, C16TAB and SDS were seen to adsorb as larger aggregates and not as monolayers. Amphiphilic adsorption (amount, structural conformation) at the PDMS/water interface is shown to be different from that at both the air/water interface and the hard OTS/water interface, illustrating that interfacial structures cannot be predicted by the surfactant packing parameter alone. The bound PDMS layer is shown to be a useful proxy for the oil/water interface in surface and stabilization studies, with hydrophobic components of the molecules able to penetrate into the oily PDMS.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)9141-9152
Number of pages12
Issue number31
Publication statusPublished - 7 Aug 2018
Externally publishedYes

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