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Langmuir. 2007 Mar 27;23(7):3626-36. Epub 2007 Feb 23.

Synergistic interaction in emulsions stabilized by a mixture of silica nanoparticles and cationic surfactant.

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Surfactant and Colloid Group, Department of Chemistry, University of Hull, Hull, HU6 7RX, United Kingdom. b.p.binks@


Using a range of complementary experiments, a detailed investigation into the behavior of dodecane-water emulsions stabilized by a mixture of silica nanoparticles and pure cationic surfactant has been made. Both emulsifiers prefer to stabilize o/w emulsions. At high pH, particles are ineffective emulsifiers, whereas surfactant-stabilized emulsions become increasingly stable to coalescence with concentration. In mixtures, no emulsion phase inversion occurs although synergism between the emulsifiers leads to enhanced stability at either fixed surfactant concentration or fixed particle concentration. Emulsions are most stable under conditions where particles have negligible charge and are most flocculated. Freeze fracture scanning electron microscopy confirms the presence of particle flocs at drop interfaces. At low pH, particles and surfactant are good emulsifiers alone. Synergism is also displayed in these mixtures, with the extent of creaming being minimum when particles are most flocculated. Experiments have been undertaken in order to offer an explanation for the latter synergy. By determining the adsorption isotherm of surfactant on particles in water, we show that surfactant addition initially leads to particle flocculation followed by re-dispersion. Using suitable contact angle measurements at oil-water-solid interfaces, we show that silica surfaces initially become increasingly hydrophobic upon surfactant addition, as well as surfactant adsorption lowering the oil-water interfacial tension. A competition exists between the influence of surfactant on the contact angle and the tension in the attachment energy of a particle to the interface.


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