Hydrophobic and hydrophilic interactions in aqueous mixtures of alcohols at a hydrophobic surface
Ballal, Deepti; Chapman, Walter G.
Aqueous solutions of alcohols are interesting because of their anomalous behavior that is believed to be due to the molecular structuring of water and alcohol around each other in solution. The interfacial structuring and properties are significant for application in alcohol purification processes and biomolecular structure. Here we study aqueous mixtures of short alcohols (methanol, ethanol, 1-propanol, and 2-propanol) at a hydrophobic surface using interfacial statistical associating fluid theory which is a perturbation density functional theory. The addition of a small amount of alcohol decreases the interfacial tension of water drastically. This trend in interfacial tension can be explained by the structure of water and alcohol next to the surface. The hydrophobic group of an added alcohol preferentially goes to the surface preserving the structure of water in the bulk. For a given bulk alcohol concentration, water mixed with the different alcohols has different interfacial tensions with propanol having a lower interfacial tension than methanol and ethanol. 2-propanol is not as effective in decreasing the interfacial tension as 1-propanol because it partitions poorly to the surface due to its larger excluded volume. But for a given surface alcohol mole fraction, all the alcohol mixtures give similar values for interfacial tension. For separation of alcohol from water, methods that take advantage of the high surface mole fraction of alcohol have advantages compared to separation using the vapor in equilibrium with a water-alcohol liquid.