Formation of surfactant and polyelectrolyte gel particles in aqueous solutions

Yakov Lapitsky, Eric W. Kaler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

59 Scopus citations


Mixing of oppositely charged surfactants and polyelectrolytes in aqueous solutions can lead to associative phase separation, where the concentrated phase assumes the form of a viscous liquid, gel, or precipitate. This phenomenon can lead to the formation of gel-like particles whose size and polydispersity can be controlled. Here we present phase behavior and structural studies of gel-like particles formed by mixing drops of N,N,N-trimethylammonium derivatized hydroxyethyl cellulose (JR-400) polyelectrolyte solution with oppositely charged anionic and catanionic surfactant solutions composed of sodium perfluorooctanoate (FC7) and cetyltrimethylammonium bromide (CTAB). Gel formation apparently occurs due to the collapse of the polyelectrolyte chains upon the adsorption of surfactant. This process results in the release of simple ions and water, and yields dense gel-like beads. The diameter of these beads ranges approximately from 200 to 4000 μm. Both the effects of solution composition and the method of preparation are studied by optical and confocal microscopy, and are linked to the structure and stability of the bead. Our observations suggest that the structure of the resulting particles is governed by the solution composition and the method of preparation, while the particle stability is governed by phase behavior alone.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)179-187
Number of pages9
JournalColloids and Surfaces A: Physicochemical and Engineering Aspects
Issue number1-3 SPEC. ISS.
StatePublished - Dec 10 2004

Bibliographical note

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  • Catanionic surfactant mixtures
  • Gel beads
  • Polyelectrolyte
  • Surfactant


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