The effects of organic counterions with varying carbon number on surfactant aggregation have been analysed by coupling perfluorooctanoate surfactant anions with various alkylammonium counterions. Both the degree of substitution (primary to tertiary) and alkyl chain length (0-3 carbons) of the counterions were varied to provide a comprehensive matrix of geometries and lipophilicities. Surface activity was measured using pendant drop tensiometry, while temperature-controlled small-angle neutron scattering was used to probe changes in aggregation morphology. It was found that the use of such alkylammonium counterions resulted in a strong preference for bilayer formation even at low surfactant concentration (<2 wt%), when compared to simple inorganic counterions such as sodium which favour near-spherical micelles. At increased temperatures, some counterions led to unique phase behaviour wherein a transition between two structurally different lamellar phases is seen, rationalised as a transition into a microscopic phase separation wherein a surfactant-rich lamellar phase coexists with a dilute micellar phase. The results indicate that aggregation is controlled by a delicate balance of counterion size, hydrophilicity and diffuseness of charge, providing new methods for the subtle control of surfactant solutions.
- Surfactant ionic liquid