We have studied assembly at air-water and liquid-liquid interfaces with an emphasis on systems containing both surfactants and nanoparticles. Anionic surfactants, sodium dodecyl sulfate (SDS) and non-ionic surfactants, Triton X-100 and tetraethylene glycol alkyl ethers (C(8)E(4), C(12)E(4) and C(14)E(4)), effectively decrease the surface tension of air-water interfaces. The inclusion of negatively charged hydrophilic silica nanoparticles (diameters of approximately 13 nm) increases the efficiency of the SDS molecules but does not alter the performance of the non-ionic surfactants. The former is likely due to the repulsive Coulomb interactions between the SDS molecules and nanoparticles which promote the surfactant adsorption at air-water interfaces. For systems involving trichloroethylene (TCE)-water interfaces, the SDS and Triton X-100 surfactants effectively decrease the interfacial tensions and the nanoparticle effects are similar compared to those involving air-water interfaces. Interestingly, the C(12)E(4) and C(14)E(4) molecules, with or without the presence of nanoparticles, fail to decrease the TCE-water interfacial tensions. Our molecular dynamics simulations have suggested that the tetraethylene glycol alkyl ether molecules tend to disperse in the TCE phase rather than adsorb at the TCE-water interfaces.
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