Simulations Study of Single Component and Mixed n-Alkyl-PEG Micelles

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Abstract

Here, we study one component and mixed n-alkyl-poly(ethylene oxide) (CmEn) micelles with varying poly(ethylene oxide) (PEG) chain lengths n using coarse-grained molecular simulations. These non-ionic alkyl-PEG surfactants and their aggregates are widely used in bio and chemical technology. As expected, the simulations show that increasing the PEG chain length decreases the alkyl-PEG micelle core diameter and aggregation number but also enhances PEG chain penetration to the core region and spreads the micelle corona. Both the core and corona density are heavily dependent on the PEG chain length and decrease with increasing PEG length. Furthermore, we find that the alkyl-PEG surfactants exhibit two distinct micellization modes: surfactants with short PEG chains as their hydrophilic heads aggregate with the PEG heads relatively extended. Their aggregation number and the PEG corona density are dictated by the core carbon density. For longer PEG chains, the PEG sterics, i.e. the volume occupied by the PEG head group, becomes the critical factor limiting the aggregation. Finally, simulations of binary mixtures of alkyl-PEGs of two different PEG chain lengths show that even in the absense of core freezing, the surfactants prefer the aggregate size of their single component solutions with the segregation propelled via enthalpic contributions. The findings, especially as they provide a handle on the density and the density profile of the aggregates, raise attention to effective packing shape as a design factor of micellar systems for e.g. drug transport, solubilization, or partitioning.

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4851 − 4860
JournalJournal of Physical Chemistry B
Volume122
Issue number18
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2018
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed

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