The journal of physical chemistry. B

Organization of T-shaped facial amphiphiles at the air/water interface studied by infrared reflection absorption spectroscopy.

PMID 22931365


We studied the behavior of monolayers at the air/water interface of T-shaped facial amphiphiles which show liquid-crystalline mesophases in the bulk. The compounds are composed of a rigid p-terphenyl core (TP) with two terminal hydrophobic ether linked alkyl chains of equal length and one facial hydrophilic tri(ethylene oxide) chain with a carboxylic acid end group. Due to their amphiphilic nature they form stable Langmuir films at the air/water interface. Depending on the alkyl chain length they show markedly different compression isotherms. We used infrared reflection absorption spectroscopy (IRRAS) to study the changes in molecular organization of the TP films upon compression. We could retrieve information on layer thickness, alkyl chain crystallization, and the orientation of the TP cores within the films. Films of TPs with long (16 carbon atoms: TP 16/3) and short (10 carbon atoms: TP 10/3) alkyl chains were compared. Compression of TP 16/3 leads to crystallization of the terminal alkyl chains, whereas the alkyl chains of TP 10/3 stay fluid over the complete compression range. TP 10/3 shows an extended plateau in the compression isotherm which is due to a layering transition. The mechanism of this layering transition is discussed. Special attention was paid to the question of whether a so-called roll-over collapse occurs during compression. From the beginning to the end of the plateau, the layer thickness is increased from 15 to 38 Å and the orientation of the TP cores changes from parallel to the water surface to isotropic. We conclude that the plateau in the compression isotherm reflects the transition of a TP monolayer to a TP multilayer. The monolayer consists of a sublayer of well-organized TP cores underneath a sublayer of fluid alkyl chains whereas the multilayer consists of a well oriented bottom layer and a disordered top layer. Our findings do not support the model of a roll-over collapse. This study demonstrates how the IRRA band intensity of OH or OD stretching vibrations can be used to retrieve information about layer thickness and refractive indices of the film and how multicomponent IRRA bands can be fitted to retrieve information about the orientation of molecules within the monolayer.