Structural Features of Micelles of Zwitterionic Dodecyl-phosphocholine (C₁₂PC) Surfactants Studied by Small-Angle Neutron Scattering

Elias Pambou, John Crewe, Mohammed Yaseen, Faheem Padia, Sarah Rogers, Dong Wang, Hai Xu, Jian Lu

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    Small-angle neutron scattering (SANS) was used to investigate the size and shape of zwitterionic dodecyl phosphocholine (C12PC) micelles formed at various concentrations above its critical micelle concentration (CMC = 0.91 mM). The predominant spherical shape of micelles is revealed by SANS while the average micellar size was found to be broadly consistent with the hydrodynamic diameters determined by dynamic light scattering (DLS). Cryogenic tunneling electron microscopy (cryo-TEM) shows a uniform distribution of structures, proposing micelle monodispersity ( Supporting Information ). H/D substitution was utilized to selectively label the chain, head, or entire surfactant so that structural distributions within the micellar assembly could be investigated using fully protonated, head-deuterated, and tail-deuterated PC surfactants in D2O and fully deuterated surfactants in H2O. Using the analysis software we have developed, the four C12PC contrasts at a given concentration were simultaneously analyzed using various core-shell models consisting of a hydrophobic core and a shell representing hydrated polar headgroups. Results show that at 10 mM, C12PC micelles can be well represented by a spherical core-shell model with a core radius and shell thicknesses of 16.9 ± 0.5 and 10.2 ± 2.0 Å (total radius 27.1 ± 2.0 Å), respectively, with a surfactant aggregation number of 57 ± 5. As the concentration was increased, the SANS data revealed an increase in core-shell mixing, characterized by the emergence of an intermediate mixing region at the spherical core-shell interface. C12PC micelles at 100 mM were found to have a core radius and shell thicknesses of 19.6 ± 0.5 and 7.8 ± 2.0 Å, with an intermediate mixing region of 3.0 ± 0.5 Å. Further reduction in the shell thickness with concentration was also observed, coupled with an increased mixing of the core and shell regions and a reduction in miceller hydration, suggesting that concentration has a significant influence on surfactant packing and aggregation within micelles.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)9781-9
    Number of pages9
    Issue number36
    Publication statusPublished - 15 Sept 2015


    • Micelles
    • Molecular Structure
    • Neutron Diffraction
    • Phosphorylcholine
    • Scattering, Small Angle
    • Surface-Active Agents
    • Journal Article
    • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
    • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.


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