A facile route for creating "reverse" vesicles: insights into "reverse" self-assembly in organic liquids

J Am Chem Soc. 2008 Jul 9;130(27):8813-7. doi: 10.1021/ja801895n. Epub 2008 Jun 11.


Reverse vesicles are spherical containers in organic liquids (oils) consisting of an oily core surrounded by a reverse bilayer. They are the organic counterparts to vesicles in aqueous solution and could potentially find analogous uses in encapsulation and controlled release. However, few examples of robust reverse vesicles have been reported, and general guidelines for their formation do not exist. We present a new route for forming stable unilamellar reverse vesicles in nonpolar organic liquids, such as cyclohexane and n-hexane. The recipe involves mixing short- and long-chain lipids (lecithins) with a trace of a salt such as sodium chloride. The ratio of short- to long-chain lecithin controls the type and size of self-assembled structure. As this ratio is increased, a spontaneous transition from reverse micelles to reverse vesicles occurs. Small-angle neutron scattering (SANS) and transmission electron microscopy (TEM) confirm the presence of unilamellar vesicles in the corresponding solutions. Average vesicle diameters can be tuned from 60 to 250 nm depending on the sample composition.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cyclohexanes / chemistry*
  • Hexanes / chemistry*
  • Lecithins / chemistry*
  • Microscopy, Electron, Transmission
  • Neutron Diffraction
  • Scattering, Small Angle
  • Sodium Chloride / chemistry
  • Solutions
  • Unilamellar Liposomes / chemical synthesis*
  • Unilamellar Liposomes / chemistry
  • Water / chemistry


  • Cyclohexanes
  • Hexanes
  • Lecithins
  • Solutions
  • Unilamellar Liposomes
  • Water
  • n-hexane
  • Sodium Chloride
  • Cyclohexane