Analytical chemistry

Improved methylene blue two-phase titration method for determining cationic surfactant concentration in high-salinity brine.

PMID 25365626


The methylene blue (MB) two-phase titration method is a rapid and efficient method for determining the concentrations of anionic surfactants. The point at which the aqueous and chloroform phases appear equally blue is called Epton's end point. However, many inorganic anions, e.g., Cl(-), NO3(-), Br(-), and I(-), can form ion pairs with MB(+) and interfere with Epton's end point, resulting in the failure of the MB two-phase titration in high-salinity brine. Here we present a method to extend the MB two-phase titration method for determining the concentration of various cationic surfactants in both deionized water and high-salinity brine (22% total dissolved solid). A colorless end point, at which the blue color is completely transferred from the aqueous phase to the chloroform phase, is proposed as titration end point. Light absorbance at the characteristic wavelength of MB is measured using a spectrophotometer. When the absorbance falls below a threshold value of 0.04, the aqueous phase is considered colorless, indicating that the end point has been reached. By using this improved method, the overall error for the titration of a permanent cationic surfactant, e.g., dodecyltrimethylammonium bromide, in deionized (DI) water and high-salinity brine is 1.274% and 1.322% with limits of detection (LOD) of 0.149 and 0.215 mM, respectively. Compared to the traditional acid-base titration method, the error of this improved method for a switchable cationic surfactant, e.g., tertiary amine surfactant (Ethomeen C12), is 2.22% in DI water and 0.106% with LOD of 0.369 and 0.439 mM, respectively.