On the Concept of Critical Surface Excess of Micellization

2010-11-16T00:00:00Z (GMT) by Federico I. Talens-Alesson
The critical surface excess of micellization (CSEM) should be regarded as the critical condition for micellization of ionic surfactants instead of the critical micelle concentration (CMC). There is a correspondence between the surface excesses Γ of anionic, cationic, and zwitterionic surfactants at their CMCs, which would be the CSEM values, and the critical association distance for ionic pair association calculated using Bjerrum’s correlation. Further support to this concept is given by an accurate method for the prediction of the relative binding of alkali cations onto dodecylsulfate (NaDS) micelles. This method uses a relative binding strength parameter calculated from the values of surface excess Γ at the CMC of the alkali dodecylsulfates. This links both the binding of a given cation onto micelles and the onset for micellization of its surfactant salt. The CSEM concept implies that micelles form at the air−water interface unless another surface with greater affinity for micelles exists. The process would start when surfactant monomers are close enough to each other for ionic pairing with counterions and the subsequent assembly of these pairs becomes unavoidable. This would explain why the surface excess Γ values of different surfactants are more similar than their CMCs: the latter are just the bulk phase concentrations in equilibrium with chemicals with different hydrophobicity. An intriguing implication is that CSEM values may be used to calculate the actual critical distances of ionic pair formation for different cations, replacing Bjerrum’s estimates, which only discriminate by the magnitude of the charge.