Vibrational Sum-Frequency Scattering Studies of Oil-in-Water Emulsions

Oil-in-water emulsions consist of oil droplets dispersed in an aqueous phase. Interfacial properties of the droplets determine the stability of emulsions. Even though this statement is widely accepted, a molecular level picture of the droplet interface is yet to be determined. In this thesis, we use Vibrational Sum-Frequency Scattering (SFS), an interface specific technique, to probe the interface of the droplets with chemical specificity. We start with a detailed description of how SFS measurements can be performed in water and what the effects of penetration depth, pulse energy and particle density are. This is followed by a comparison between non phase-matched SF scattering and phase-matched SF Generation from planar interfaces. We then show studies on hexadecane oil droplets stabilized by the anionic surfactant sodium dodecylsulfate (SDS) dipersed in D2O. We measure the interfacial activity of SDS by probing the response of symmetric SO3 stretch of the headgroup. Surprisingly, the results show that the interfacial density of SDS is very low, namely one order of magnitude lower than what would be expected at the corresponding planar interface. As a consequence of such a low interfacial density, the interfacial tension barely changes from the value of the pristine oil-water interface. Moreover, we use SFS to retrieve molecular order of the alkyl chains from the CH stretch responses of either SDS or oil using a selective deuteration scheme. The spectral analysis shows that the SDS alkyl chains are highly disordered at the droplets interface. In contrast, the alkyl chains of the oil molecules at the interface are more ordered than SDS. Interference experiments show that the oil molecules are, in contrast to what is seen on most planar interface, oriented predominantly parallel with respect to the interface. We also probe the alkyl chain order of SDS adsorbed at interfaces of dispersions of polymer particles. Regardless of the chemical structure of the dispersed phase the SDS molecules are always very disordered. We can therefore conclude that SDS does not show any specific interaction with the droplets or particles. In the last part of this thesis, we use SFS to probe electrostatic properties of the droplets interfaces. Adsorption of charged surfactants at the droplet interface creates a strong electrostatic field that is screened by water and counter ions in the solution. The electrostatic field, together with the incoming laser fields, excite the OD vibrational stretch of the water molecules in the vicinity of the interface with a strength proportional to the surface potential. The surface charge densities are probed by the response of the symmetric SO3 stretch of the SDS headgroup. Therefore, we are able to independently measure the surface potential and the surface charge density. We show that it is essential to separate the changes of surface potential due to charging of the interface from changes due to screening effects. The results are in agreement with the Gouy-Chapman model.


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