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Interaction of Surfactants with Hydrophobic Surfaces in Nanopores

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journal contribution
posted on 21.12.2010, 00:00 by Claudiu Brumaru, Maxwell L. Geng
Surfactant-induced wetting of hydrophobic nanopores is investigated. SDS micelles interact with the C18 layer on the nanopore walls with their hydrophobic tails, creating a charged wall lining with their head groups and inducing a breakthrough of the aqueous solution to wet the pores. The surface coverage of the surfactant molecules is evaluated electrophoretically. A surprising discovery is that pore wetting is achieved with 0.73 μmol/m2 coverage of SDS surfactant, corresponding to only 18% of a monolayer on the walls of the nanopores. Clearly, the surfactant molecules cannot organize as a compact uninterrupted monolayer. Instead, formation of hemimicelles is thermodynamically favored. Modeling shows that, to be consistent with the experimental observations, the aggregation number of hemimicelles is lower than 25 and the size of hemimicelle is limited to a maximum radius of 11.7 Å. The hydrophobic tails of SDS thus penetrate into and intercalate with the C18 layer. The insight gained in the C18−surfactant interactions is essential in the surfactant-induced solubilization of hydrophobic nanoporous particles. The results have bearing on the understanding of the nature of hydrophobic interactions.