Structural Studies of Nonionic Dodecanol Ethoxylates at the Oil–Water Interface: Effect of Increasing Head Group Size
10241 - 10247 (7)
Langmuir: the ACS journal of surfaces and colloids
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The conformation of charged surfactants at the oil-water interface was recently reported. With the aim to assess the role of the head group size on the conformation of the adsorbed layer, we have extended these studies to a series of non-ionic dodecanol ethoxylate surfactants (C12En, ethylene oxide units n from 6 to 12). The study was performed using neutron reflectometry to enable maximum sensitivity to buried interfaces. Similarly to charged surfactants, the interface was found to be broader and rougher compared to the air-water interface. Irrespectively of the head group size, the tail group region was found to assume a staggered conformation. The conformations of the head group were found to be significantly different compared to the air-water interface, moving from a globular to an almost fully extended conformation at the oil-water interface. The stretching of the head groups is attributed to the presence of some hexadecane oil molecules, which may penetrate all the way to this region. It is proposed here that the presence of the oil, which can efficiently solvate the surfactant tail groups, plays a key role in the conformation of the adsorbed layer and is responsible for the broadening of the interface.