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Hydration-Induced Phase Transitions in Surfactant and Lipid Films

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journal contribution
posted on 28.04.2016, 00:00 by Sebastian Björklund, Vitaly Kocherbitov
For several surfactant and lipid systems, it is crucial to understand how hydration influences the physical and chemical properties. When humidity changes, it affects the degree of hydration by adding or removing water molecules. In many cases, this process induces transitions between liquid crystalline phases. This phenomenon is of general interest for numerous applications simply because of the fact that humidity variations are ubiquitous. Of particular interest are hydration-induced phase transitions in amphiphilic films, which in many cases appear as the frontier toward a vapor phase with changing humidity. Considering this, it is important to characterize the film thickness needed for the formation of 3D liquid crystalline phases and the lyotropic phase behavior of this kind of film. In this work, we study this issue by employing a recently developed method based on the humidity scanning quartz crystal microbalance with dissipation monitoring (HS QCM-D), which enables continuous scanning of the film hydration. We investigate five surfactants films (DDAO, DTAC, CTAC, SDS, and n-octylβ-d-glucoside) and one lipid film (monoolein) and show that HS QCM-D enables the fast characterization of hydration-induced phase transitions with small samples. Film thicknesses range from tens to hundreds of nanometers, and clear phase transitions are observed in all cases. It is shown that phase transitions in films occur at the same water activities as for corresponding bulk samples. This allows us to conclude that surfactant and lipid films, with a thickness of as low as 50 nm, are in fact assembled as 3D-structured liquid crystalline phases. Furthermore, liquid crystalline phases of surfactant films show liquidlike behavior, which decreases the accuracy of the absorbed water mass measurement. On the other hand, the monoolein lipid forms more rigid liquid crystalline films, allowing for an accurate determination of the water sorption isotherm, which is also true for the sorption isotherms corresponding to the solid surfactant phases.