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Direct Observation of Adsorption Morphologies of Cationic Surfactants at the Gold Metal–Liquid Interface

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journal contribution
posted on 10.11.2020, 20:10 by Md. Rubel Khan, Himanshu Singh, Sumit Sharma, Katherine Leslee Asetre Cimatu
Understanding interfacial phenomena is important in processes like corrosion, catalysis, and electrochemical reactions. Specifically, in corrosion inhibition, the assembly of adsorbed surfactants at metal–water interfaces in well-packed, ordered layers is desired. We provide direct evidence of the role of alkyl tails of surfactants in the formation of ordered adsorbed layers at metal–water interfaces. We have employed surface-specific sum frequency generation (SFG) spectroscopy to probe the in situ adsorption and self-assembly of cationic surfactants, alkyldimethylbenzyl ammonium bromides of tail lengths n = 4 (C4) and 12 (C12), without any applied potential or stimulus, at the gold–water interface. Our SFG measurements show that C12 Quat adsorbs as an ordered monolayer, whereas C4 Quat adsorbs in a disordered monolayer. All-atom molecular dynamics (MD) simulations of these surfactants corroborate with SFG results. These findings provide new insights on how hydrophobic interactions between alkyl tails of surfactants affect their self-assembly at metal–water interfaces.

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