Equilibrium and nonequilibrium behaviour of surfactant systems
In binary systems, surfactant molecules can self-assemble into a large variety of structures depending on their chemical structure, concentration and temperature. The properties and stability of the phases, their coexistence regions and the formation of metastable structures is of great importance not only for fundamental understanding, but also for applications in many fields including industry and medicine. This thesis presents studies of the equilibrium and non-equilibrium behaviour of two widely used surfactant systems. The understanding of the equilibrium behaviour of an aqueous surfactant system is often incomplete or partly incorrect, which is caused by experimental difficulties, long equilibration times and the occurrence of long-lived metastable states. By applying a set of complementary techniques and recording changes on different length scales, the equilibrium phase diagram of the surfactant didodecyldimethylammonium bromide (DDAB) in water has been studied and amended. Differential scanning calorimetry has been used to obtain thermodynamic parameters. The structure of phases and biphasic regions have been characterised by small angle X-ray scattering and microscopy, while the conformational properties of the surfactant molecules have been investigated using Raman spectroscopy combined with computational methods. The effects of impurities have been studied using analytical techniques and a sufficient purity of the samples could be ensured. As a result of the studies, a new crystalline phase which exists at temperatures below 16°C was found. This phase replaces the frozen lamellar phase (Lβ) in the previously reported phase diagram. The Lβ phase has been found to be a long-lived metastable phase. The amended phase diagram has been tested by studying phase transitions along isoplethal and isothermal paths. All experimental results could be explained in terms of the new phase diagram. The study of phase transition along isoplethal paths focused on the transition between the new crystalline phase (XWn) coexisting with a dilute monomer solution (W) and the lamellar phase (Lα). This transition was (except for a single composition DDAB≈3% DDAB) a non-isothermal transition involving the phase sequence: XWn +W → XWn + Lα → Lα upon heating and Lα → overcooled Lα → XWn +W upon cooling. The structural changes within the phases and their relative ratios could be characterised using small angle X-ray scattering, microscopy and Raman spectroscopy. During the dissolution of lamellar phases along an isothermal path, multilamellar wormlike interface instabilities (so called myelins) were found to grow from the lamellar/water interface into the water. The growth of these myelins as well as changes in the lamellar phase have been investigated using optical microscopy and direct observation. This has provided detailed quantitative information on the dynamics of myelin growth and the effect of the initial structure of the lamellar phase on the myelin growth. The dependence of the growing rate on surfactant concentration could be explained in terms of a previously reported model in which the osmotic pressure was stated to be the driving force for the myelin kinetics. It has been found that for lamellar phases in coexistence with a sufficient amount of crystals, the myelin growth could be suppressed. Preliminary measurements of a tertiary system, where the pure lamellar phase of DDAB was mixed with a crystalline phase formed by dioctadecyldimethylammonium bromide (DODAB), a DDAB analogue, were carried out. The myelin growth has also been studied for a second system, the non-ionic surfactant triethylene glycol monododecyl ether (C12E3), known for its formation of myelins of great stability. The optical methods were extended to confocal microscopy, resulting in a 3D image of the myelin formation, providing detailed quantitative information on myelin growth as well as on myelin size.