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What is surfactant?
A surfactant is a substance that, when present at low concentrations in a system, has the property of migrating and being absorbed onto the interfaces of the system and of altering to a marked degree the interfacial free energies of those interfaces


Generic Surfactant Structure


Surfactant has two ends

  • One end is water soluble called Hydrophile
  • Another end is water insoluble called Hydrophobe


When we put some Surfactant into water

  • A few molecules will seem to dissolve
  • Each hydrophobe will try to orient itself to avoid the water
  • Molecules will adsorb on the walls and at the air-water interface
  • Until additional surfactant cannot adsorb at the saturated interfaces, micelles will be formed.
  • Micelles is an alternate mechanism for hydrophobes to avoid water.
  • Micelle formation enables homogeneous emulsion and dispersion of otherwise non-compatible materials.

Types of Surfactant 
1. Nonionic 
• No electrical charge (o)
• Compatible with both Anionics and Cationics
• Temperature sensitive (Cloud Point)
• Steric stabilisation, poor wetting, low efficiency
2. Anionic
3. Negatively charged (-)
Most used surfactant, low cost, high efficiency
• Electrostatic stabilization, good wetting
4. Cationic
• Positively charged (+)
• Anticorrosive and Antistatic properties
5. Amphoteric 
• Charge varies with pH (+/-)


Function of Surfactant

Application of Surfactant