The 1,3-Dioctadecyl-1 H-imidazol-3-ium Based Potentiometric Surfactant Sensor for Detecting Cationic Surfactants in Commercial Products

Sensors (Basel). 2022 Nov 25;22(23):9141. doi: 10.3390/s22239141.


A low-cost and fast potentiometric surfactant sensor for cationic surfactants, based on the new ion-pair 1,3-dioctadecyl-1H-imidazol-3-ium-tetraphenylborate (DODI-TPB), is presented. The new cationic surfactant DODI-Br was synthesized and characterized by NMR, LC-MS, and elemental analysis, and was used for synthesis of the DODI-TPB ionophore. The DODI-TPB surfactant sensor was obtained by implementation of the ionophore in PVC. The sensor showed excellent response characteristics with near-Nernstian slopes to the cationic surfactants DMIC, CPC, CTAB, and Hyamine 1622. The highest voltage responses were obtained for DMIC and CPC (58.7 mV/decade of activity). DMIC had the lowest detection limit (0.9 × 10-6 M) and the broadest useful linear concentration range (1.8 × 10-6 to 1.0 × 10-4 M). An interference study showed remarkable stability. Potentiometric titration curves for the titration of cationic surfactants (DMIC, CPC, CTAB, and Hyamine 1622), with DDS and TPB used as titrants, showed sigmoidal curves with well-defined inflexion points and a broad signal change. The standard addition method was successfully applied with recovery rates from 98.9 to 101.2 at two concentrations. The amount of cationic surfactant found in disinfectants and antiseptics was in good agreement with the referent two-phase titration method and the surfactant sensor on the market. This new surfactant sensor represents a low-cost alternative to existing methods for cationic surfactant detection.

Keywords: antiseptic; cationic surfactant; disinfectant; ionophore; potentiometry; sensor.

MeSH terms

  • Hydrogen-Ion Concentration
  • Ionophores
  • Potentiometry / methods
  • Surface-Active Agents* / chemistry
  • Tetraphenylborate* / chemistry


  • Surface-Active Agents
  • Ionophores
  • Tetraphenylborate

Grant support

D.M. would like to thank Croatian Science Foundation for funding the research project IP-2019-04-8846 and the University of Rijeka for funding the research grant UNIRI-prirod-18-102.