Unstable topography of biphasic surfactant monolayers

H. Diamant*, T. A. Witten, A. Gopal, K. Y.C. Lee

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We study the conformation of a heterogeneous surfactant monolayer at a fluid-fluid interface, near a boundary between two lateral regions of differing elastic properties. The monolayer attains a conformation of shallow, steep "mesas" with a height difference of up to 10 nm. If the monolayer is progressively compressed (e.g., in a Langmuir trough), the profile develops overhangs and finally becomes unstable at a surface tension of about K(δc0)2, where δc0 is the difference in spontaneous curvature and K a bending stiffness. We discuss the relevance of this instability to recently observed folding behavior in lung surfactant monolayers, and to the absence of domain structures in films separating oil and water in emulsions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)171-177
Number of pages7
JournalEurophysics Letters
Issue number2
StatePublished - 11 Oct 2000
Externally publishedYes


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