Cationic Ester-Containing Gemini Surfactants: Physical-Chemical Properties
Journal article, 2010

Three ester-containing cationic gemini surfactants, two with decanoyl chains and either a three-carbon or a six-carbon spacer unit and one with dodecanoyl chains and a three-carbon spacer, were synthesized and evaluated. A corresponding monomeric cationic ester surfactant was used for comparison. This type of amphiphile, a so-called esterquat, is known to undergo rapid hydrolysis above the critical micelle concentration because of micellar catalysis. The esterquat geminis of this work were found to be much more susceptible to hydrolysis than the esterquat monomer. This difference is believed to be caused by anchimeric assistance by the second cationic headgroup in the gemini amphiphiles. However, there is no correlation between the rate of chemical hydrolysis and the rate of biodegradation. The monomeric esterquat, which is the most stable in the chemical hydrolysis experiments, was the only surfactant that passed the test for “readily biodegradable”. We also observed a considerable difference in the hydrolysis rate within the small series of gemini surfactants. The amphiphile with two decanoyl chains and a three-carbon spacer, N,N′-bis(2-(decanoyloxy)ethyl)-N,N,N′,N′-tetramethyl-1,3-propanediammonium dibromide, had the fastest rate of hydrolysis. This surfactant also exhibited a considerably lower degree of micelle ionization than the other surfactants, which is believed to be due to the closer proximity of the charged groups on the micelle surface. A small distance between headgroups will give more pronounced neighboring group participation, accounting for the increased rate of hydrolysis. An interesting property of the surfactant that is the most susceptible to hydrolysis is that it gives rise to an extremly stable foam. We propose that the foam stability is a result of the partial hydrolysis of the surfactant generating sodium decanoate, an anionic surfactant, that forms a mixed film with the starting cationic gemini surfactant. It is known that mixed monolayers in which there is a strong attractive interaction between surfactant headgroups can lead to stable foams.


Ali Tehrani

Chalmers, Chemical and Biological Engineering, Applied Surface Chemistry

Krister Holmberg

Chalmers, Chemical and Biological Engineering, Applied Surface Chemistry


07437463 (ISSN) 15205827 (eISSN)

Vol. 26 12 9276-9282

Subject Categories

Chemical Engineering

Chemical Sciences



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