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Surfactant Facilitated Spreading of Aqueous Drops on Hydrophobic SurfacesMicrogravity technologies often require aqueous phases to spread over nonwetting hydrophobic solid/surfaces. At a hydrophobic surface, the air/hydrophobic solid tension is low, and the solid/aqueous tension is high. A large contact angle forms as the aqueous/air tension acts together with the solid/air tension to balance the large solid/aqueous tension. The aqueous phase, instead of spreading, is held in a meniscus by the large angle. Surfactants facilitate the wetting of water on hydrophobic surfaces by adsorbing on the water/air and hydrophobic solid/water interfaces and lowering the surface tensions of these interfaces. The tension reductions decrease the contact angle, which increases the equilibrium wetted area. Hydrocarbon surfactants (i.e. amphiphiles with a hydrophobic chain of methylene groups attached to a large polar group to give aqueous solubility) do not reduce significantly the contact angles of the very hydrophobic surfaces such as parafilm or polyethylene. Trisiloxane surfactants (amphiphiles with a hydrophobe consisting of methyl groups linked to a trisiloxane backbone in the form of a disk ((CH3)3-Si-O-Si-O-Si(CH3)3)) and an extended ethoxylate (-(OCH2CH2)n-) polar group in the form of a chain with seven or eight units) can significantly reduce the contact angle of water on a very hydrophobic surface and cause rapid and complete (or nearly complete) spreading (lermed superspreading). The overall goal of the research described in this proposal is to establish and verify a theory for how trisiloxanes cause superspreading, and then use this knowledge as a guide to developing more general hydrocarbon based surfactant systems which superspread and can be used in microgravity. We propose that the trisiloxane surfactants superspread when the siloxane adsorbs, the hydrophobic disk parts of the molecule adsorb onto the surface removing the surface water. Since the cross sectional area of the disk is larger than that of the extended ethoxylate chain, the disks can form a space filling mat on the surface which removes a significant amount of the surface water. The water adjacent to the hydrophobic solid surface is of high energy due to incomplete hydrogen bonding; its removal significantly lowers the tension and reduces the contact angle. Hydrocarbon surfactants cannot remove as much surface water because their large polar groups prevent the chains from cohering lengthwise. In our report last year we presented a poster describing the preparation of model very hydrophobic surfaces which are homogeneous and atomically smooth using self assembled monolayers of octadecyl trichlorosilane (OTS). In this poster we will use these surfaces as test substrates in developing hydrocarbon based surfactant systems which superspread. We studied a binary hydrocarbon surfactant systems consisting of a very soluble large polar group polyethylene oxide surfactant (C12E6 (CH3(CH2)11(OCH2CH2)6OH) and a long chain alcohol dodecanol. By mixing the alcohol with this soluble surfactant we have found that the contact angle of the mixed system on our test hydrophobic surfaces is very low. We hypothesize that the alcohol fills in the gaps between adjacent adsorbed chains of the large polar group surfactant. This filling in removes the surface water and effects the decrease in contact angle. We confirm this hypothesis by demonstrating that at the air/water interface the mixed layer forms condensed phases while the soluble large polar group surfactant by itself does not. We present drop impact experiments which demonstrate that the dodecanol/C12E6 mixture is effective in causing impacting drops to spread on the very hydrophobic model OTS surfaces.
Document ID
Acquisition Source
Glenn Research Center
Document Type
Kumar, Nitin
(City Coll. of the City Univ. of New York NY United States)
Couzis, Alex
(City Coll. of the City Univ. of New York NY United States)
Maldarelli, Charles
(City Coll. of the City Univ. of New York NY United States)
Singh, Bhim S.
Date Acquired
August 20, 2013
Publication Date
August 1, 2000
Publication Information
Publication: HBCUs/OMUs Research Conference Agenda and Abstracts
Subject Category
Fluid Mechanics And Thermodynamics
Distribution Limits
Work of the US Gov. Public Use Permitted.

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