A nucleophilic substitution reaction performed in different types of self-assembly structures

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A nucleophilic substitution reaction between 4-tert-butylbenzyl bromide and potassium iodide has been performed in oil-in-water microemulsions based on various C12Em surfactants, i.e., dodecyl ethoxylate with m number of oxyethylene units. The reaction kinetics was compared with the kinetics of reactions performed in other self-assembly structures based on very similar surfactants and in homogeneous liquids. The reaction was fastest in the micellar system, intermediate in rate in the microemulsions, and most sluggish in the liquid crystalline phase. Reaction in a Winsor I system, i.e., a two-phase system comprising an oil-in-water microemulsion in equilibrium with excess oil, was equally fast as reaction in a one-phase microemulsion. The reactions in microemulsion were surprisingly fast compared to reaction in homogeneous, protic liquids such as methanol and ethanol. The rate was independent of the microstructure of the microemulsion; however, the rate was very dependent on the type of surfactant used. When the C12Em surfactant was replaced by a sugar-based surfactant, octyl glucoside, the reaction was much more sluggish. The high reactivity in microemulsions based on C12Em surfactants is belived to be due to a favorable microenvironment in the reaction zone. The reaction is likely to occur within the surfactant palisade layer, where the water activity is relatively low and where the attacking species, the iodide ion, is poorly hydrated and, hence, more nucleophlic than in a protic solvent such as water or methanol. Sugar surfactants become more hydrated than alcohol ethoxylates and the lower reactivity in the microemulsion based on the sugar surfactant is probably due to a higher water activity in the reaction zone.


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  • Physical Chemistry
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)6107-6115
Issue number15
Publication statusPublished - 2004
Publication categoryResearch