Competitive adsorption of the nonionic polymer poly(ethylene oxide) (PEO) and the nonionic surfactant of the type poly(ethylene oxide) alkyl ether from aqueous solutions on a silica surface is examined. From one-component solutions, both species readily adsorb onto silica and, in the bulk of mixed (two-component) solutions, polymer-surfactant complexes are not observed. Because both species bind by the same mechanism to silica, subtle differences in layer structure, or other species-specific parameters, determine whether one or both of the species will adsorb. It was found that various surfactants can displace PEO up to a certain critical molecular weight. Surfactants with a high aggregation number, in bulk and on the surface, can displace PEO with a higher molar mass than surfactants with a low aggregation number. As the molar mass of the polymer increases, the time a surfactant needs to completely displace the polymer increases. We can explain both the existence of the critical molar mass and the decrease in adsorption kinetics with a shift in the critical surface association concentration (CSAC).
Postmus, B. R., F. A. M. Leermakers, L. K. Koopal, M. A. C. Stuart