Researchers develop unique 'surfactant' material

Jun 07, 2005
Researchers develop unique 'surfactant' material

A unique class of materials developed by researchers at Sandia National Laboratories in Livermore, Calif., may prove useful in textile manufacturing, biomedical diagnostics, and other applications requiring the modification of surface properties of liquids or solids.
Sandia's cleavable (easily separated) surface active agent (or, "surfactant"), based on Diels-Alder chemistry, differs from other surfactants in that it can be thermally degraded and easily removed in an inexpensive, environmentally harmless manner.

Image: Left, an intact emulsion. Right, the emulsion is broken after the cleavable surfactant is degraded by heating. (Photo by Bud Pelletier)

Scott Vaupen, a business development associate at Sandia, said commercially available thermally cleavable surfactants would enable industrial practices where it is desirable to diminish foaming or surface-active properties over time, in drug delivery, and where biodegradability is a primary concern. "They could prove useful in diverse fields as textile processing, electronics fabrication, sample management, wastewater processing, cleavable phase transfer reagents, and other applications," said Vaupen.

Traditional surfactants are difficult to remove from processes in which they are employed. Some surfactant systems require the invasive addition of an acid or base to separate the surfactant into fragments in order to eliminate surface active properties. Such invasive use of additional reagents usually necessitates costly post-treatment of the system in order to achieve acceptable downstream processing conditions.

Sandia's materials are the first known examples of a surfactant that can be thermally degraded in a benign manner. Five anionic surfactants are available which incorporate hydrophilic and hydrophobic segments that covalently degrade at elevated temperatures. The surfactants behave like classic surface active agents, and form micelles after reaching certain concentrations in water. Upon separation, the surfactants lose all surface-active behavior.

Surfactants, when used in small quantities, reduce surface tension in a fluid or the interfacial tension between two immiscible fluids, such as oil and water. They can be particularly useful in accomplishing the wetting or penetration of solids by aqueous liquids and serve in the manner of detergent, emulsifying, or dispersing agents. They are more effective than soap in certain situations and are used for such purposes as cleaning, wetting, and dispersing.

Source: DOE/Sandia National Laboratories

Explore further: New search planned for grave of Spanish poet Lorca

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

High-throughput method for sorting cells

Sep 24, 2014

UH Mānoa College of Engineering mechanical engineer Yi Zuo has developed a new, high-throughput method for sorting cells capable of separating 10 billion bacterial cells in 30 minutes.

Recommended for you

New search planned for grave of Spanish poet Lorca

12 hours ago

Archeologists will start inspecting land in southern Spain near where the acclaimed poet Federico Garcia Lorca is believed to have been executed and buried at the start of the Spanish Civil War in 1936, officials said Friday.

Family financing is anything but foolish

15 hours ago

Borrowing money from a family member or friend to start a business is often considered dangerous, both financially and emotionally, however new research conducted by an entrepreneurial expert at the University of Adelaide ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.