Water-in-water emulsions stabilized by non-amphiphilic interactions: Polymer-dispersed lyotropic liquid crystals

Karen A. Simon, Preeti Sejwal, Ryan B. Gerecht, Yan Yeung Luk

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

58 Scopus citations


Emulsion systems involving surfactants are mainly driven by the separation of the hydrophobic interactions of the aliphatic chains from the hydrophilic interactions of amphiphilic molecules in water. In this study, we report an emulsion system that does not include amphiphilic molecules but molecules with functional groups that are completely solvated in water. These functional groups give rise to molecular interactions including hydrogen bonding, π stacking, and salt bridging and are segregated into a dispersion of droplets forming a water-in-water emulsion. This water-in-water emulsion consists of dispersing droplets of a water-solvated biocompatible liquid crystal - disodium cromoglycate (DSCG) - in a continuous aqueous solution containing specific classes of water-soluble polymers. Whereas aqueous solutions of polyols support the formation of emulsions of spherical droplets consisting of lyotropic liquid crystal DSCG with long-term stability (for at least 30 days), aqueous solutions of polyamides afford droplets of DSCG in the shape of prolate ellipsoids that are stable for only 2 days. The DSCG liquid crystal in spherical droplets assumes a radial configuration in which the optical axis of the liquid crystal aligns perpendicular to the surface of the droplets but assumes a tangential configuration in prolate ellipsoids in which the optical axis of the liquid crystal aligns parallel to the surface of the droplet. Other classes of water-soluble polymers including polyethers, polycations, and polyanions do not afford a stable emulsion of DSCG droplets. Both the occurrence and the stability of this unique emulsion system can be rationalized on the basis of the functional groups of the polymer. The different configurations of the liquid crystal (DSCG) droplets were also found to correlate with the strength of the hydrogen bonding that can be formed by the functional groups on the polymer.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1453-1458
Number of pages6
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jan 30 2007

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Materials Science
  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Surfaces and Interfaces
  • Spectroscopy
  • Electrochemistry


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