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Surfactant-Free Microemulsion Composed of Oleic Acid, n‑Propanol, and H2O

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journal contribution
posted on 10.01.2013, 00:00 by Jie Xu, Aolin Yin, Jikuan Zhao, Dongxiang Li, Wanguo Hou
Generally, a microemulsion consists of oil, water, surfactant, and sometimes cosurfactant. Herein, we report a surfactant-free microemulsion (denoted as SFME), consisting of oleic acid (oil phase), water, and n-propanol without the amphiphilic molecular structure of a traditional surfactant. The phase behavior of the ternary system was investigated, showing that there were a single-phase microemulsion region and a multiphase region in the ternary phase diagram. The electrical conductivity measurement was employed to investigate the microregions of the single-phase microemulsion region, and three different microregions, that is, water-in-oleic acid (W/O), a bicontinuous (B.C.) region, and oleic acid-in-water (O/W), were identified, which were further confirmed by freeze-fracture and cryogenic transmission electron microscopy (FF-TEM and Cryo-TEM) observations. The polarity and the salt solubility of water domains in the W/O SFME were investigated by UV–visible spectroscopy using methyl orange and potassium ferricyanide as probes, respectively. Experimental results showed that the water domains in the W/O microemulsion had a lower polarity than bulk water and a normal solubility for salt species, indicating that the SFMEs have much significance in the preparation of various nanomaterials.