Fascinating phenomena in Surfactant Chemistry


  • Prof. Heinz Hoffmann

    Corresponding author
    1. Physikalische Chemie I, Universität Bayreuth Universitätsstrasse 30, D-95440 Bayreuth (FRG)
    • Physikalische Chemie I, Universität Bayreuth Universitätsstrasse 30, D-95440 Bayreuth (FRG)
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    • studied chemistry at the University of Würzburg and the Technische Hochschule Karlsruhe, Germany, receiving his Ph.D., from the TH Karlsruhe. Following post-doctoral experience at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, and further research at the University of Erlangen-Nürnberg he was appointed full professor at the University of Bayreuth in 1975. He has spent time as a visiting scientist at the DuPont Company in Wilmington, Delaware, and as a visiting professor at Tokyo Science University. He is the author of more than 170 publications in the field of colloids and surfactant science.


An amphiphilic compound such as a surfactant molecule is a very simple molecule. Yet, when dissolved in water, it spontaneously self-assembles into a multitude of micellar structures such as globules, rods, disks, and vesicles. Even in dilute solutions containing only about 1 % of surfactant, these primary structures can organize themselves on a macroscopic scale so that the whole system in a test tube can be completely ordered. Such systems can have very remarkable macroscopic properties, for example, a yield stress, complex fluid behavior, or iridescence under illumination.

The shape of the micellar structures is always determined by the area a that a surfactant molecule occupies at a micellar or bulk interphase. This area can be controlled or tuned by the mixing ratio X between surfactants or between surfactants and cosurfactants. The different assemblies which then result with the variation of X are discussed, together with the macroscopic properties of the systems and some applications where these properties are of use.