The self-assembly structure and the CO2-philicity of a hybrid surfactant in supercritical CO2: effects of hydrocarbon chain length

MH Wang and TM Fang and P Wang and XP Tang and BJ Sun and J Zhang and B Liu, SOFT MATTER, 12, 8177-8185 (2016).

DOI: 10.1039/c6sm01584k

Hybrid surfactants containing both fluorocarbon (FC) and hydrocarbon (HC) chains, as effective CO2-philic surfactants, could improve the solubility of polar substances in supercritical CO2. Varying the length of the HC of hybrid surfactants is an effective way to improve the CO2-philicity. In this paper, we have investigated the effects of the HC length on the self-assembly process and the CO2-philicity of hybrid surfactants (F7Hn, n = 1, 4, 7 and 10) in water/CO2 mixtures using molecular dynamics simulations. It is found that the self-assembly time of F7Hn exhibits a maximum when the length of the HC is equal to that of the FC (F7H7). In this case, the investigation of H-bonds between the water core and CO2 phase shows that F7H7 has the strongest CO2-philicity because it has the best ability to separate water and CO2. To explain the origin of the differences in separation ability, the analysis of the structures of the reverse micelles shows that there are two competing mechanisms with a shortening HC. Firstly, the volume of F7Hn is reduced, which thus decreases the separation ability. Moreover, this also leads to the curved conformation of the FC. As a result, the separation ability is enhanced. These two mechanisms are balanced in F7H7, which has the best ability to separate water and CO2. Our simulation results demonstrate that the increased volume and the curved conformation of the hybrid surfactant tail could enhance the CO2-philicity in F7Hn surfactants. It is expected that this work will provide valuable information for the design of CO2-philic surfactants.

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