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Systematically quantifying oil–water microemulsion structures using (spin-echo) small angle neutron scattering

Mulder, Maarten, Li, Xuesong X., Nazim, Mohammad M., Dalgliesh, Robert M., Tian, Bei, Buijse, Marten, van Wunnik, John, Bouwman, Wim G.
Colloids and surfaces 2019 v.575 pp. 166-175
alkanes, butanol, carbon, deuterium oxide, droplets, emulsions, models, neutron diffraction, olefin, salt content, sulfonates, surfactants
Microemulsion systems consisting of D2O, an alkane, an anionic internal olefin sulfonate surfactant, salt and secondary butyl alcohol (SBA) as co-solvent are studied in a systematic way. In four different sample sets, either the salt content, SBA content or alkane carbon number was varied in order to study the effects of the individual compounds on the structure sizes making up the microemulsion. Using complementary small-angle neutron scattering techniques SANS and Spin-Echo SANS, it was found that the microemulsion systems exhibit the largest structures in the optimum state (domain size of d/2 =144 nm in the model by Teubner and Strey), where the structure is considered bicontinuous. In comparison, at under- and over-optimum states where the structures consist of emulsified spherical droplets, the smallest measured diameter was 2R = 44 nm. Furthermore, the structure sizes in bicontinuous microemulsions decrease exponentially (down to d/2 =15 nm for pentadecane and 5 wt% SBA) as function of both SBA content and alkane carbon number. The observed trends in structure sizes combined with the trends observed in the area per surfactant molecule, are qualitatively explained with the extended Winsor R-ratio, the HLD-NAC model and surfactant film flexibility arguments.