The influence of negatively charged silica nanoparticles on the surface properties of anionic surfactants: electrostatic repulsion or the effect of ionic strength?†
The presence of negatively charged nanoparticles affects the surface activity of anionic surfactants in an aqueous phase. Recent studies suggest that electrostatic repulsive forces play an important role in increasing the surface activity of surfactants. However, the addition of nanoparticles also increases the ionic strength of the system, which has a significant impact on the surfactant's properties, e.g. its critical micelle concentration (CMC). To investigate how and to what extent electrostatic forces and ionic strength influence the behavior of ionic surfactants, the surface tension and elasticity of different solutions were measured using drop profile tensiometry as a function of the surfactant (SDBS), nanoparticle (silica) and salt (KNO3) concentration. It is observed that the surface activity of the surfactants is mainly influenced by the change in the system's ionic strength due to the presence of nanoparticles. Several characteristic parameters including the equivalent concentration of the surfactant, the CMC and the apparent partial molar area of the adsorbed surfactant are theoretically calculated and further employed to validate experimental observations. Both the nanoparticles and electrolyte decrease the CMC, while the equivalent concentration of the surfactant remains nearly constant. This paper presents a criterion to estimate the possible influence of such forces for nanoparticles of different sizes and mass fractions.