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Real-Time Kinetics of Surfactant Molecule Transfer between Emulsion Particles Probed by in Situ Second Harmonic Generation Spectroscopy

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journal contribution
posted on 07.03.2012, 00:00 by YuMeng You, Aaron Bloomfield, Jian Liu, Li Fu, Seth B. Herzon, Elsa C. Y. Yan
Emulsions are widely used in industrial and environmental remediation applications. The breaking and reformulation of emulsions, which occur during their use, lead to changes in their surface composition as well as their physical and chemical properties. Hence, a fundamental understanding of the transfer of surfactant molecules between emulsion particles is required for optimization of their applications. However, such an understanding remains elusive because of the lack of in situ and real-time surface-specific techniques. To address this, we designed and synthesized the surfactant probe molecules MG-butyl-1 (2) and MG-octyl-1 (3), which contain an n-butyl and an n-octyl chain, respectively, and a charged headgroup similar to that in malachite green (MG, 1). MG is known to be effective in generating second harmonic generation (SHG) signals when adsorbed onto surfaces of colloidal microparticles. Making use of the coherent nature of SHG, we monitored in real-time the transfer of 2 and 3 between oil-in-water emulsion particles with diameters of ∼220 nm. We found that 3 is transferred ∼600 times slower than 2, suggesting that an increase in the hydrophobic chain length decreases the transfer rate. Our results show that SHG combined with molecular design and synthesis of surfactant probe molecules can be used to measure the rate of surfactant transfer between emulsion particles. This method provides an experimental framework for examining the factors controlling the kinetics of surfactant transfer between emulsion particles, which cannot be readily investigated in situ and in real-time using conventional methods.