Scaleable two-component gelator from phthalic acid derivatives and primary alkyl amines: acid–base interaction in the cooperative assembly†
A series of phthalic acid derivatives (P) with a carbon-chain tail was designed and synthesized as single-component gelators. A combination of the single-component gelator P and a non-gelling additive n-alkylamine A through acid–base interaction brought about a series of novel phase-selective two-component gelators PA. The gelation capabilities of P and PA, and the structural, morphological, thermo-dynamic and rheological properties of the corresponding gels were investigated. A molecular dynamics simulation showed that the H-bonding network in PA formed between the NH of A and the carbonyl oxygen of P altered the assembly process of gelator P. Crude PA could be synthesized through a one-step process without any purification and could selectively gel the oil phase without a typical heating–cooling process. Moreover, such a crude PA and its gelation process could be amplified to the kilogram scale with high efficiency, which offers a practical economically viable solution to marine oil-spill recovery.