, Volume 9, Issue 4, pp 331-339

Formulation of ultralow interfacial tension systems using extended surfactants

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Inspired by the concept of lipophilic and hydrophilic linkers, extended surfactants have been proposed as highly desirable candidates for the formulation of microemulsions with high solubilization capacity and ultralow interfacial tension (IFT), especially for triglyceride oils. The defining characteristic of an extended surfactant is the presence of one or more intermediate-polarity groups between the hydrophilic head and the hydrophobic tail. Currently only limited information exists on extended surfactants; such knowledge is especially relevant for cleaning and separation applications where the cost of the surfactant and environmental regulations prohibit the use of concentrated surfactant solutions. In this work, we examine surfactant formulations for a wide range of oils using dilute solutions of the extended surfactant classes sodium alkyl polypropyleneoxide sulfate (R-(PO) x −SO4Na), and sodium alkyl polypropyleneoxide-polyethyleneoxide sulfate (R-(PO) y -(EO) z −SO4Na). The IFT of these systems was measured as a function of electrolyte and surfactant concentration for polar and nonpolar oils. The results show that these extended surfactant systems have low critical micelle concentrations (CMC) and critical microemulsion concentrations (CμC) compared with other surfactants. We also found that the unique structure of these extended surfactants allows them to achieve ultralow IFT with a wide range of oils, including highly hydrophobic oils (e.g., hexadecane), triolein, and vegetable oils, using only ppm levels of these extended surfactants. It was also found that the introduction of additional PO and EO groups in the extended surfactant yielded lower IFT and lower optimum salinity, both of which are desirable in most formulations. Based on the optimum formulation conditions, it was found that the triolein sample used in these experiments behaved as a very polar oil, and all other vegetable oils displayed very hydrophobic behavior. This unexpected triolein behavior is suspected to be due to uncharacterized impurities in the triolein sample, and will be further evaluated in future research.