Phase behavior of polyelectrolyte-surfactant complexes at planar surfaces

Adi Shafir*, David Andelman

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We investigate theoretically the phase diagram of an insoluble charged surfactant monolayer in contact with a semidilute polyelectrolyte solution (of opposite charge). The polyelectrolytes are assumed to have long-range and attractive (electrostatic) interaction with the surfactant molecules. In addition, we introduce a short-range (chemical) interaction which is either attractive or repulsive. The surfactant monolayer can have a lateral phase separation between dilute and condensed phases. Three different regimes of the coupled system are investigated depending on system parameters. A regime where the polyelectrolyte is depleted due to short range repulsion from the surface, and two adsorption regimes, one being dominated by electrostatics, whereas the other by short range chemical attraction (similar to neutral polymers). When the polyelectrolyte is more attracted (or at least less repelled) by the surfactant molecules as compared with the bare water-air interface, it will shift upwards the surfactant critical temperature. For repulsive short-range interactions the effect is opposite. Finally, the addition of salt to the solution is found to increase the critical temperature for attractive surfaces, but does not show any significant effect for repulsive surfaces.

Original languageEnglish
Article number021803
JournalPhysical Review E - Statistical, Nonlinear, and Soft Matter Physics
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2006


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