Polymer Boosting Effect
Amphiphilic block copolymers increase the efficiency of surfactants by up to 10 times. Therefore, microemulsions are studied where the surfactant is responsible for the miscibility between oil and water. Surfactants are important components in detergents and cosmetics for instance. The reduced amount of surfactants serves the environment and reduces the product price. The actual research focuses on novel polymers, which are less costly and more specialized for applications.
Neutron Scattering on Microemulsions
The bulk properties of microemulsions are well understood. Phase diagrams, small angle neutron scattering (SANS) experiments, and neutron spin echo (NSE) spectroscopy are described by a unifying theory going back to Helfrich. So, the miscibility, the nano-structure, and the nano-dynamics are connected by a common model. The climax of the structural analysis is the contrast variation measurement revealing the size and relative position of polymers as additives in microemulsions. All these methods uncover the mechanisms of modern polymeric additives and serve for an optimized application.
Microemulsions adjacent to surfaces
Microemulsions come in contact with surfaces for nearly all practical applications. This is obvious for cleaning processes, but also for surfactant systems for the enhanced oil recovery where the oil is enclosed in the porous sand stone. We study the effect of simple model surfaces on the structure and dynamics of microemulsions. For planar surfaces we employ scattering experiments under grazing incidence, i.e. GISANS and GINSENG. Here we found a lamellar order adjacent to the surface with faster dynamics.
Microemulsion cleaning agents
Solvent-based cleaning agents are still used, for example in the construction sector as brush cleaners or as specialty cleaning products for the removal of adhesive residues. It is obvious that these cleaners contain severe disadvantages for health and the environment. Microemulsions represent an interesting alternative to solvent cleaners. With the help of polymeric additives, these cleaners can be formulated with low surfactant concentrations. If high-boiling ester oils are used as the oil component, fully non-hazardous cleaners can be obtained. The cleaning power of microemulsion cleaners is equivalent to that of solvent cleaners. A cleaning product developed in our laboratories is now being sold commercially by a manufacturer of paints and coatings.