Interactions of Crosslinked Polyacrylic Acid Polyelectrolyte Gels with Nonionic and Ionic Surfactants

Aleksey Vishnyakov, Runfang Mao, Kimberly Kam, Andrei Potanin, Alexander V. Neimark

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


The morphology and stability of surfactant-loaded polyelectrolyte gels are of great interest for a variety of personal care, cosmetic, and pharmaceutical products. However, the mechanisms of surfactant interactions with gel-forming polymers are poorly understood and experimentally challenging. The aim of this work is to explore in silico the specifics of surfactant absorption within polyelectrolyte gels drawing on the examples of typical non-ionic octaethylene glycol monooctyl ether (C8E8) and anionic sodium dodecyl sulfate (SDS) surfactants and polyacrylic acid modified with hydrophobic sidechains mimicking the practically important Carbopol polymer. Using the systematically parameterized coarse-grained dissipative particle dynamics models, we generate and characterize the equilibrium conformations and swelling of the polymer films in aqueous solutions with the surfactant concentrations varied up to the critical micelle concentration (cmc). We discover the striking difference in interactions of Carbopol-like polymers with nonionic and ionic surfactants under mildly acidic conditions. The sorption of C8E8 within the polymer film is found substantial. As the surfactant concentration increases, the polymer film swells and, close to cmc, becomes unstable due to the formation and growth of water pockets filled with surfactant micelles. Sorption of SDS at the same bulk concentrations is found much lower, with only about 1% of surfactant mass fraction achieved at cmc. As the SDS concentration increases further, a lamellae structure is formed within the film, which remains stable. Reduced swelling and higher stability indicate better prospects of using SDS-type surfactants with Carbopol-based gels in formulations for detergents and personal care products.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)13817-13828
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Physical Chemistry B
Issue number50
Publication statusPublished - 23 Dec 2021


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