Light and Neutron Scattering Study of PEG-oleate and Its Use in Emulsion Polymerization
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Steric stabilization of colloids forms a robust mechanism to obtain colloids that are stable in a variety of environments, and that can be used to study the phase behavior of hard or soft spheres. We report the synthesis of sterically stabilized colloids in an aqueous environment using readily dissolvable surfactants, with an unsaturated hydrophobic tail. We synthesized a new surfactant by esterification of a poly(ethylene glycol) (PEG) chain of 4.1 kg/mol with oleic acid, called PEG4OA. The micellization of PEG4OA was characterized by light and neutron scattering, which yielded values for the aggregation number and the overall size that are in excellent agreement with a comparable surfactant with a saturated octadecane chain, Brij 700. We successfully used PEG4OA in the emulsion polymerization of polystyrene colloids. In comparison with the smaller surfactant Tween 80, PEG4OA yielded smaller colloids with radii around 50 nm, and the addition of 1-dodecanethiol reduced the formation of aggregates during the synthesis. A contrast variation study with small angle neutron scattering (SANS) showed that a dense PEG layer was grafted to the colloid surface.