Here we examine how the force on an atomic force microscope (AFM) tip varies as it approaches micellar surfactant films, and use this information to discern the film's surface structure and Young's modulus. Rows of wormlike hemimicelles were created at a graphite interface using 10 mM sodium dodecyl sulfate (SDS). We found that the repulsive force on a silicon nitride tip as it approached the surface was exponential, with a decay length of 2.0 ± 0.1 nm. The addition of Na2SO4 was found to cause a change in this behavior, with a clear split into two exponential regions at concentrations above 1 mM. We also observed that the range of these forces increased with added salt from ∼15 nm in pure SDS to ∼20 nm at a Na2SO4 concentration of 1.34 mM. These forces were inconsistent with electrostatic repulsion, and were determined to be steric in nature. We show that the behavior at higher salt concentrations is consistent with the theory of polyelectrolyte brushes in the osmotic regime. From this, we hypothesize the presence of micellar brushes at the surface that behave similarly to adsorbed polymer chains. In addition, the Young's modulus of the film was taken from data near the interface using Sneddon's model, and found to be 80 ± 40 MPa. Similar experiments were performed with 10 mM dodecylamine hydrochloride (DAH) solutions in the presence of added magnesium chloride. The decay length for the pure DAH solution was found to be 2.6 ± 0.3 nm, and the addition of 1.34 mM of MgCl2 caused this to increase to 3.7 ± 0.3 nm. No decay length splitting was observed for DAH. We conclude that the behavior at the surface resembles that of an uncharged polymer brush, as the ionic and surface charge densities are much lower for DAH than for SDS.
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Acknowledgment is made to the Donors of the American Chemical Society Petroleum Research Fund for support of this research under Grant Number 54813-ND5.