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They are used in all industrial areas, ranging from household detergents to drilling muds and foods products to pharmaceuticals.

Surfactant is a term which comes from "surface active agent". They are amphiphilic molecules which are absorbed at the air-water interface. At the interface they are aligned so that the hydrophobic part is in the air and the hydrophilic component is in the water. This causes an increase in the interfacial or surface tensions. Whenever you aim for an article source about surfactant, navigate to this website.

Surfactant basics

Surfactants are hydrophobic compounds with hydrophilic components. The hydrophobic tail can be a fluorocarbon, or a hydrocarbon. Surfactants are usually classified based on their polar head as the hydrophobic tails are often identical. Non-ionic surfactants are those with zero charge within their head groups. If the head group is charged with a negative or positive charge, it's referred to as anionic or cationic. Surfactants that contain both positive and negative groups is called the zwitterionic.

Surfactants with anionic and nonionic properties are the most commonly utilized types of surfactants in the field. Anionic surfactants are used especially in cleaning products , such as shampoos and laundry detergents. Nonionic surfactants are used in the food industry and as wetting agents. Because they are more costly to manufacture, both cationic surfactants and Zwitterionic are more suitable for specific applications.

Surfactants absorb at the interfaces
Because of their amphiphilic nature, surfactants absorb from the water-air or oil-water interface. At the interface, surfactants align themselves in a way that the hydrophobic portion is located in air (or oil) and the hydrophilic part in water.

Let's just focus on the interface air-water for simplicity. The tension on the surface of water is high because of the powerful cohesive forces between water molecules. These interactions are broken down as surfactants absorb the forces. The intermolecular forces between water molecules and surfactants are much lower than between two water molecules, and therefore, surface tension will decrease. When the surfactant concentration is high, they will form micelles. Critical micelle concentration is the level where micelles start to form.

The principal purpose of surfactant is to reduce the tension between the surfaces and help stabilize the interface. Washing laundry without surfactants would be very difficult, similar to many food items like mayonnaise or ice cream. It is crucial to optimize surfactants for different applications. Surface and interfacial tension measurements play an essential role.


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