On autophobing in surfactant-driven thin films

Langmuir. 2007 Feb 27;23(5):2588-601. doi: 10.1021/la0629936.


Recent experiments (Afsar-Siddiqui, A. B.; Luckham, P. F.; Matar, O. K. Langmuir 2004, 20, 7575-7582) on the spreading of aqueous droplets containing cationic surfactants over thin aqueous films supported by negatively charged substrates demonstrated trends in the spreading behavior with either increasing surfactant concentration or increasing film thickness. Although the substrate is initially hydrophilic and the droplet spreads, surfactant adsorption at the substrate renders it hydrophobic leading to droplet retraction. We generate a model here using lubrication theory that allows the effect of the surfactant on the wettability to be taken into account. Our numerical results show that due to basal adsorption of surfactant at the interface, the initially hydrophilic solid substrate is rendered hydrophobic. This then drives droplet retraction and dewetting, which is in agreement with the experimentally observed trends.