Structure of Water in Microemulsions: Electrical, Birefringence, and Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Studies

Science  05 Feb 1971:
Vol. 171, Issue 3970, pp. 483-485
DOI: 10.1126/science.171.3970.483


Microemulsions, which are optically transparent oil-water dispersions, were produced by mixing hexadecane, hexanol, potassium oleate, and water. As the amount of water is increased, the microemulsion exhibits a clear to turbid to clear transition. In contrast to the clear regions, the turbid region possesses birefringence. The development of birefringence is also accompanied by a sharp decrease in the electrical resistance. The high-resolution (220 megacycle) nuclear magnetic resonance data suggest that water exists in two distinct molecular environments in the birefringent region; the first environment is characterized by relatively less mobile water molecules than oil molecules, whereas in the second environment oil molecules are less mobile than water molecules. The electrical, birefringence, and nuclear magnetic resonance data are in agreement with the proposed mechanism of change in the structure of water from water spheres to water cylinders to water lamellae. The chemical shift of water protons suggests that the molecular environment of water in spheres is different from that of water in cylinders or that of water in lamellae.