Catalysis and Synthesis Research Group: Research Focus

Surfactant development: Synthesis, Properties and Applications

Our efforts in this sub-program is focused on the development of catalytic processes with application in synthesis and energy:

(i) Surfactant Synthesis – Surface Active Agents, also called surfactants, are compounds which lower the surface tension between two liquids or a liquid and solid. These materials find widespread application as wetting agents, emulsifiers, foaming agents and dispersants. Their widespread utility in every day life cannot be overestimated. In this thrust we employ and develop modern synthetic organic chemistry techniques to prepare and characterise surfactants. In particular, emphasis is placed on synthetic routes which are easily scalable, producing minimal by-products and which are operationally simple. Typically these prepared surfactants encompass the following sub-categories: cationic and zwitterionic surfactants.

(ii) Surfactant properties – While surfactants are ubiquitous in their everyday use, a thorough understanding of their physicochemical properties is often lacking. As such we aim to employ modern spectroscopic and analytical techniques to characterise our prepared surfactants, which informs their potential application. Analytical methods include NMR, HPLC and tensiometry.