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SELF-ASSEMBLY OF AMPHIPHILIC MOLECULES IN ORGANIC LIQUIDS
Raghavan, Srinivasa R.
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Amphiphilic molecules are well-known for their ability to self-assemble in water to form structures such as micelles and vesicles. In comparison, much less is known about amphiphilic self-assembly in nonpolar organic liquids. Such "reverse" self assembly can produce many of the counterparts to structures found in water. In this dissertation, we focus on the formation and dynamics of such reverse structures. We seek to obtain fundamental insight into the driving forces for reverse self-assembly processes. Three specific types of reverse structures are studied: (a) reverse wormlike micelles, i.e., long, flexible micellar chains; (b) reverse vesicles, i.e., hollow containers enclosed by reverse bilayers; and (c) organogel networks. While our focus is on the fundamentals, we note that reverse structures can be useful in a variety of applications ranging from drug delivery, controlled release, hosts for enzymatic reactions, and templates for nanomaterials synthesis. In the first part of this study, we describe a new route for forming reverse wormlike micelles in nonpolar organic liquids. This route involves the addition of trace amounts of a bile salt to solutions of the phospholipid, lecithin. We show that bile salts, due to their unique "facially amphiphilic" structure, can promote the aggregation of lecithin molecules into these reverse micellar chains. The resulting samples are viscoelastic and show interesting rheological properties. Unusual trends are seen in the temperature dependence of their rheology, which indicates the importance of hydrogen-bonding interactions in the formation of these micelles. Another remarkable feature of their rheology is the presence of strain-stiffening, where the material becomes stiffer at high deformations. Strain-stiffening has been seen before for elastic gels of biopolymers; here, we demonstrate the same properties for viscoelastic micellar solutions. The second reverse aggregate we deal with is the reverse vesicle. We present a new route for forming stable unilamellar reverse vesicles, and this involves mixing short- and long-chain lipids (lecithins) with a trace of sodium chloride. The ratio of the short to long-chain lipid controls the type and size of self-assembled structure formed, and as this ratio is increased, a transition from reverse micelles to vesicles occurs. The structural changes can be explained in terms of molecular geometry, with the sodium chloride acting as a "glue" in binding lipid headgroups together through electrostatic interactions. The final part of this dissertation focuses on organogels. The two-tailed anionic surfactant, AOT, is well-known to form spherical reverse micelles in organic solvents. We have found that trace amounts (e.g., less than 1 mM) of the dihydroxy bile salt, sodium deoxycholate (SDC) can transform these dilute micellar solutions into self-supporting, transparent organogels. The structure and rheology of these organogels is reminiscent of the self-assembled networks formed by proteins such as actin in water. The organogels are based on networks of long, rigid, cylindrical filaments, with SDC molecules stacked together in the filament core.