All surfactants are amphiphilic molecules that orient at interfaces; however, a surfactant’s exact chemical structure will dictate its behavior at these interfaces. In dilute systems, this is well understood, but in the complex formulation of most coatings applications the behavior becomes far more difficult to predict. The guidelines originally developed for commodity surfactants in dilute detergent systems translate poorly to coatings requiring greater understanding of surfactant structure as well as interactions with other components. This paper will discuss recent surfactant structure-property relationship studies and explain how the variation of specific chemical structural features modifies the resulting surfactants’ interactions with other coatings components. Additionally, the combination of these structural elements to create next generation wetting agents will be described.
K. Michael (Mike) Peck works in the Performance Materials division of Air Products and Chemicals, Inc. He received a B.A. degree in Chemistry from Dartmouth College and an M.Eng. in Chemical Engineering from Lehigh University. During the last few years he has focused on surface active chemistries and their utility in water-based applications, while previously contributing in product research and process development roles over 20 years at Air Products.