DTAB micelle formation in ionic liquid/water mixtures is determined by ionic liquid cation structure

Minh T. Lam, William D. Adamson, Shurui Miao, Rob Atkin, Gregory G. Warr

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


Hypothesis: The high CMCs and low aggregation numbers of ionic micelles in the extreme electrolyte environment of ionic liquids (ILs) seem to be at odds with the effect of dilute aqueous electrolytes, which lower CMCs and promote elongated micelles. We hypothesise that the driving force for micellisation in ILs is determined by their underlying amphiphilic nanostructure, and that this can be controlled by mixing with water. Experiments: CMCs and micelle sizes of dodecyltrimethylammonium bromide (DTAB) are determined in mixed solvents comprising water and the ionic liquids ethylammonium nitrate (EAN), ethanolammonium nitrate (EtAN), and propylammonium nitrate (PAN) over a wide composition range. Their behaviour is compared with aqueous electrolytes up to their solubility limit. CMCs are determined by a variety of techniques, and their relative strengths critically evaluated. Micelle morphology is determined by small-angle neutron scattering. Findings: In water-rich mixtures, ILs do behave like simple electrolytes. Counterion binding dominates, both lowering the aqueous CMC and favouring a sphere-rod transition. However, even at modest concentrations, IL cations become incorporated into the micelle, causing the CMC to pass through a minimum, and arresting the sphere-rod transition. The efficiency of the cation depends on its amphiphilicity. As the IL content increases further, its role as a component of the bulk solvent becomes dominant: Only here does IL nanostructure influence micellization, as it increases alkyl chain solubility (EAN, PAN) and hence raises the CMC.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)597-603
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Colloid and Interface Science
Publication statusPublished - 15 Sept 2019


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