The kinetics of solubilisate exchange between water droplets of a water-in-oil microemulsion
Exchange rates of aqueous solubilisates between water droplets in a water-in-oil microemulsion stabilised by sodium bis(2-ethyl-hexyl) sulphosuccinate (AOT) have been measured as a function of droplet size, temperature and the chain length of the oil. The effects of additives (e.g. alcohols) on the exchange kinetics have also been investigated. Exchange rates were measured using very fast chemical reactions as indicators for exchange. Three types of reaction were investigated: proton transfer, metal–ligand complexation and electron transfer. Similar exchange rates were found for all three reactions. The indicator reactions involve the exchange of reactant ions of differing size and charge type; exchange rates were, however, independent of the ion transferred, but dependent on droplet size and temperature. For AOT as dispersant, exchange occurs with a second-order rate constant of 106–108 dm3 mol–1 s–1, two to four orders of magnitude slower than the droplet encounter rate as predicted from simple diffusion theory. The apparent activation enthalpy is high (and increases with droplet size) but is largely compensated by a positive activation entropy. Exchange, on balance, is a relatively facile process which typically takes place on a millisecond timescale (depending on the droplet concentration).
The exchange mechanism involves transient water droplet coalescence and separation. This is the dynamic process whereby the equilibrium properties of the microemulsion, e.g. droplet size and polydispersity, are maintained. There is a correlation between the exchange rate constants and the stability of the single-phase microemulsion. This relationship between the kinetic and equilibrium properties is discussed in terms of the ‘natural curvature’ of the surfactant interface and inter-droplet interactions.