Physico-Chemical Studies on Liquid Surfactants
Besides ionic liquid research I have also begun studies on liquid surfactant systems as part of an ongoing research partnership with Rochester Midland Corporation (RMC) which supports summer research students. For example, we discovered that minute quantities of water are distributed into two physically distinct domains in “dry” nonionic poly(ethylenoxide)alcohol (CmEn) surfactant (Journal of Colloid and Interface Science, 2005, Vol. 287, 712-716). In this regard, with the availability of our NMR spectrometer with gradient capabilities, acquired in 2005, I have been learning a variety of modern NMR experiments, including diffusion ordered spectroscopy (DOSY), which has become one of my primary research tools. As part of our investigations on surfactants it became necessary to suppress the large water solvent signal during relaxation measurement. This issue became its own research project leading to two publications.
As a most interesting side outcome from the research partnership with Rochester Midland, I had at one point the realization that nonionic liquid surfactants can also serve as a solvent of chemical synthesis. This is a novel idea which was patented after proof of principal could be demonstrated with a successful Diels-Alder reaction where the product precipitated from the nonionic liquid surfactant solution. I believe opportunities for liquid surfactants as truly green solvents are tremendous. As amphiphile molecules nonionic liquid surfactants can dissolve a wide range of compounds enabling dissolution into one homogeneous phase of reactants which are disparate in their polarity. Similar to ionic liquids their vapor pressure is negligibly low, but unlike ionic liquids the toxicology profile of these surfactants is known to be benign and in fact many nonionic liquid surfactants are even biodegradable. Importantly, the cost of liquid surfactants is at least an order of magnitude less than the cost of ionic liquids. SUNY Brockport is interested in licensing this new technology. I myself would also love to work with partners who are interested in further developing this technology for particular applications of interest. This is especially true if such partnerships allow for summer research stipends for undergraduate students. Please, contact me for inquiries, comments and questions.