Molecular ordering and phase behavior of surfactants at water-oil interfaces as probed by X-ray surface scattering
Schlossman, Mark L
Tikhonov, Aleksey M
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Surfactants have their primary utility, both scientific and industrial, at the liquid-liquid interface. We review recent X-ray surface scattering experiments that probe the molecular ordering and phase behavior of surfactants at the water-oil interface. The presence of the oil modifies the interfacial ordering in a manner that cannot be understood simply from analogies with studies of Langmuir monolayers of surfactants at the water-vapor interface or from the traditional view that the solvent is fully mixed with the interfacial surfactants. These studies explored the role of chain flexibility and head group interactions on the ordering of long-chain alkanols and alkanoic acids. Small changes in the surfactant may produce large changes in the interfacial ordering. The interfacial monolayer can be spatially homogeneous or inhomogeneous. Investigators have observed interfacial phase transitions as a function of temperature between homogenous phases, as well as between homogeneous and inhomogeneous phases. Finally, varying the solvent chain length can alter the fundamental character of the phase transitions and lead to the formation of multilayer interfacial structures.