Emergence of surfactant-free micelles from ternary solutions

S. Schöttl, J. Marcus, O. Diat, D. Touraud, W. Kunz, T. Zemb, D. Horinek
2014 Chemical Science  
Curious effects ranging from enzyme activity to anomalies in evaporation rates that have been known for over fifty years suggest the existence and thermodynamic stability of surfactant-free micelles. Only recently, joint X-ray, light and neutron scattering experiments have demonstrated that aggregates and bulk pseudo-phases coexist in presumably normal solutions, in which a water insoluble component is solubilized in a certain domain of concentration of a hydrotrope component like ethanol.
more » ... like ethanol. Nevertheless, nothing is known about the molecular-level shape and structure of such aggregates. In this work we characterize mixtures of octanol, ethanol, and water by molecular dynamics simulations. For compositions in the "pre-ouzo" region (close to the single phase stability limit) we observe micelle-like aggregates that are clearly distinct from simple critical density fluctuations. We define an ethanol partition in the pseudo-phase from an integral of the van der Waals dispersion energy term. From this partition, octanol-rich aggregates swollen with ethanol appear with an emerging interface. Ethanol is present in the water pseudo-phase with an exponential decay similar to the one predicted by Marcelja and Radic forty years ago.
doi:10.1039/c4sc00153b fatcat:7vsfhop3nffa5bnmkeo2tgtwby