Gemini surfactants as efficient dispersants of multiwalled carbon nanotubes: Interplay of molecular parameters on nanotube dispersibility and debundling

Bárbara Abreu, Jessica Rocha, Ricardo M.F. Fernandes, Oren Regev, István Furó, Eduardo F. Marques

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations

Abstract

Surfactants have been widely employed to debundle, disperse and stabilize carbon nanotubes in aqueous solvents. Yet, a thorough understanding of the dispersing mechanisms at molecular level is still warranted. Herein, we investigated the influence of the molecular structure of gemini surfactants on the dispersibility of multiwalled carbon nanotubes (MWNTs). We used dicationic n-s-n gemini surfactants, varying n and s, the number of alkyl tail and alkyl spacer carbons, respectively; for comparisons, single-tailed surfactant homologues were also studied. Detailed curves of dispersed MWNT concentration vs. surfactant concentration were obtained through a stringently controlled experimental procedure, allowing for molecular insight. The gemini are found to be much more efficient dispersants than their single-tailed homologues, i.e. lower surfactant concentration is needed to attain the maximum dispersed MWNT concentration. In general, the spacer length has a comparatively higher influence on the dispersing efficiency than the tail length. Further, scanning electron microscopy imaging shows a sizeable degree of MWNT debundling by the gemini surfactants in the obtained dispersions. Our observations also point to an adsorption process that does not entail the formation of micelle-like aggregates on the nanotube surface, but rather coverage by individual molecules, among which the ones that seem to be able to adapt best to the nanotube surface provide the highest efficiency. These studies are relevant for the rational design and choice of optimal dispersants for carbon nanomaterials and other similarly water-insoluble materials.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)69-77
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Colloid and Interface Science
Volume547
DOIs
StatePublished - 1 Jul 2019

Keywords

  • Adsorption
  • Carbon nanotube
  • Dispersion efficiency
  • Exfoliation
  • Gemini surfactant
  • Hydrophobicity
  • Molecular structure
  • Spacer length
  • Tail length

Fingerprint

Dive into the research topics of 'Gemini surfactants as efficient dispersants of multiwalled carbon nanotubes: Interplay of molecular parameters on nanotube dispersibility and debundling'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this