Towards life in hydrocarbons: aggregation behaviour of “reverse” surfactants in cyclohexane†
Unconventional life forms based on membranes able to self-assemble in hydrocarbons instead of water might in principle exist in the hydrocarbon-rich environments on Earth and in the methane lakes of Saturn's moon, Titan. This reversed paradigm for life would require that these membranes should be constituted of “reverse” surfactants. We here describe the synthesis of reverse amphiphilic molecules with a geometry similar to conventional surfactants but with an opposite topological configuration: lipophilic heads and lipophobic tails. Their self-assembly in cyclohexane was studied by 1H 2D DOSY-NMR and SAXS. We present experimental evidence of the self-assembly of these reverse surfactants to yield typical micelles in a hydrocarbon solvent.