Unusual Vesicle-Micelle Transitions in a Salt-Free Catanionic Surfactant: Temperature and Concentration Effects.
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The spontaneous formation of vesicles by the salt-free surfactant hexadecyltrimethylammonium octylsulfonate (TASo) and the features of an unusual vesicle-micelle transition are investigated in this work. In a previous work, we have shown that this highly asymmetric catanionic surfactant displays a rare lamellar miscibility gap in the concentrated regime. Here, we analyze in detail the aggregation behavior in the dilute regime (less than 3 wt % surfactant) as a function of both concentration and temperature. The phase diagram is dominated by a two-phase region consisting of a dispersion of a swollen lamellar phase (L alpha') in the excess solvent phase (L 1). Stable vesicles form in this two-phase region, and upon temperature increase, a transition to a single solution phase containing only elongated micelles occurs. The structural characterization of the aggregates and the investigation of their equilibrium properties have been carried out by light microscopy, cryo-TEM, water self-diffusion NMR, and SANS. Similarly to the lamellar-lamellar coexistence, the changes in microstructure at high dilution and high temperature can be understood from solubility differences, electrostatic interactions, and preferred aggregate curvature. Surface charge in the aggregates stems from the higher solubility of the octylsulfonate (So (-)) ion as compared to that of the hexadecyltrimethylammonium ion (TA (+)). Upon temperature increase, the ratio of free So (-) relative to the neutral TASo increases. Consequently, the surface charge density of the aggregates increases, and this ultimately induces a transition to a higher-curvature morphology (elongated micelles). Vesicles can also be spontaneously formed by cooling solutions from the micellar region, and the mean size obtained is practically independent of cooling rate, suggesting that dissociation/charge effects also control this process.