Journal of the American Chemical Society

Preparation of microscopic and planar oil-water interfaces that are decorated with prescribed densities of insoluble amphiphiles.

PMID 18335929


Langmuir monolayers (monolayers of insoluble molecules formed at the surface of water), and associated Langmuir-Blodgett/Schaefer monolayers prepared by transfer of Langmuir films to the surfaces of solids, are widely used in studies aimed at understanding the physicochemical properties of biological and synthetic molecules at interfaces. In this article, we report a general and facile procedure that permits transfer of Langmuir monolayers from the surface of water onto microscopic and planar interfaces between oil and aqueous phases. In these experiments, a metallic grid supported on a hydrophobic solid is used to form oil films with thicknesses of 20 mum and interfacial areas of 280 mum x 280 mum. Passage of the supported oil films through a Langmuir monolayer is shown to lead to quantitative transfer of insoluble amphiphiles onto the oil-water interfaces. The amphiphile-decorated oil-water interfaces hosted within the metallic grids (i) are approximately planar, (ii) are sufficiently robust mechanically so as to permit further characterization of the interfaces outside of the Langmuir trough, (iii) can be prepared with prescribed and well-defined densities of amphiphiles, and (iv) require only approximately 200 nL of oil to prepare. The utility of this method is illustrated for the case of the liquid crystalline oil 4-pentyl-4'-cyanobiphenyl (5CB). Transfer of monolayers of either dilauroyl- or dipalmitoylphosphatidylcholine (DLPC and DPPC, respectively) to the nematic 5CB-aqueous interface is demonstrated by epifluorescence imaging of fluorescently labeled lipid and polarized light imaging of the orientational order within the thin film of nematic 5CB. Interfaces prepared in this manner are used to reveal key differences between the density-dependent phase properties of DLPC and DPPC monolayers formed at air-water as compared to that of nematic 5CB-aqueous interfaces. The methodology described in this article should be broadly useful in advancing studies of the interfacial behavior of synthetic and biological molecules at liquid-liquid interfaces.

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4′-Pentyl-4-biphenylcarbonitrile, liquid crystal (nematic), 98%