American Chemical Society
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Takes Two to Tango: Choreography of the Coadsorption of CTAB and Hexanol at the Oil–Water Interface

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journal contribution
posted on 2019-09-26, 15:34 authored by Regina K. Ciszewski, Brittany P. Gordon, Benjamin N. Muller, Geraldine L. Richmond
Mixed surfactant systems at the oil–water interface play a vital role in applications ranging widely from drug delivery to oil-spill remediation. Synergistic mixtures are superior emulsifiers and more effective at modifying surface tension than either component alone. Mixtures of surfactants with dissimilar polar head groups are of particular interest because of the additional degree of control they offer. The interplay of hydrophobic and electrostatic effects in these systems is not well understood, in part because of the difficulty in examining their behavior at the buried oil–water interface where they reside. Here, surface-specific vibrational sum frequency spectroscopy is utilized in combination with surface tensiometry and computational methods to probe the cooperative molecular interactions between a cationic surfactant cetyltrimethylammonium bromide (CTAB) and a nonionic alcohol (1-hexanol) that induce the two initially reluctant surfactants to coadsorb synergistically at the interface. A careful deuteration study of CTAB reveals that hexanol cooperates with CTAB such that both molecules preferentially orient at the interface for sufficiently large enough concentrations of hexanol. This work’s methodology is unique and serves as a guide for future explorations of macroscopic properties in these complex systems. Results from this work also provide valuable insights into how interfacial ordering impacts surface tensiometry measurements for nonionic surfactants.