Wetting of surfactant solutions by alkanes

Katherine M. Wilkinson, Colin D. Bain, Hiroki Matsubara, Makoto Aratono

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

48 Citations (Scopus)


Ellipsometry, surface tensiometry, and contact-angle measurement have been used to study the transition between partial wetting and pseudo-partial wetting of surfactant solutions by alkanes. In the partial wetting regime, the air-water surface tension is the same with and without alkane. In the pseudo-partial wetting regime, the air-water surface tension is lowered by the presence of alkane, showing that oil is solubilised into the surfactant monolayer. A discontinuous change in the coefficient of ellipticity with increasing surfactant concentration provides unequivocal evidence for the first-order nature of the wetting transitions. Ellipsometry has been used to explore the generality of wetting transitions of alkanes (dodecane, hexadecane, and squalane) on surfactant solutions [dodecyltrimethylammonium bromide, tetredecyltrimethylammonium bromide, dibucaine hydrochloride, and Aerosol OT (AOT)]. Of the systems studied, only hexadecane on AOT solutions did not show a wetting transition. Excess alkane remains as a lens on the surface of the surfactant solutions at all concentrations, but the contact angle is a minimum at the wetting transition. A semiquantitative model for the variation of the contact angle with surfactant concentration is provided.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)547-555
Number of pages9
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2005

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Atomic and Molecular Physics, and Optics
  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry


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