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Adv Colloid Interface Sci. 2002 Feb 25;96(1-3):325-38.

Superspreading driven by Marangoni flow.

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Chemical Engineering Department, Illinois Institute of Technology, Chicago 60616, USA.


The spontaneous spreading (called superspreading) of aqueous trisiloxane ethoxylate surfactant solutions on hydrophobic solid surfaces is a fascinating phenomenon with several practical applications. For example, the ability of trisiloxane ethoxylate surfactants to enhance the spreading of spray solutions on waxy weed leaf surfaces, such as velvetleaf (Abutilion theophrasti), makes them excellent wetting agents for herbicide applications. The superspreading ability of silicone surfactants has been known for decades, but its mechanism is still not well understood. In this paper, we suggest that the spreading of trisiloxane ethoxylates is controlled by a surface tension gradient, which forms when a drop of surfactant solution is placed on a solid surface. The proposed model suggests that, as the spreading front stretches, the surface tension increases (the surfactant concentration becomes lower) at the front relative to the top of the droplet, thereby establishing a dynamic surface tension gradient. The driving force for spreading is due to the Marangoni effect, and our experiments showed that the higher the gradient, the faster the spreading. A simple model describing the phenomenon of superspreading is presented. We also suggest that the superspreading behavior of trisiloxane ethoxylates is a consequence of the molecular configuration at the air/water surface (i.e. small and compact hydrophobic part), as shown by molecular dynamics modeling. We also found that the aggregates and vesicles formed in trisiloxane solutions do not initiate the spreading process and therefore these structures are not a requirement for the superspreading process.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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