Worm-like soft nanostructures in nonionic systems: principles, properties and application as templates. Academic Article uri icon


  • The principles, occurrence, structure and properties of worm-like micellar solutions in nonionic surfactant systems is reviewed, with focus in certain experimental methods used to characterize such soft nanostructured systems. Formulation plays a critical role in the design of worm-like micellar systems and derived viscoelastic networks. Micellar growth in one dimension, and hence formation of worm-like aggregates, is favoured by an increase in the average surfactant molecular packing parameter. Such an increase can be induced by addition of cosurfactant or amphiphilic oil that tends to penetrate in the surfactant palisade layer and reduce the specific surface area. On the other hand, long and bulky oils prone to be solubilized in the micellar core, cause a rod-sphere transition and therefore a decrease in viscosity. Salts have a small effect on the behaviour of nonionic worm-like micelles, contrary to what is found for ionic surfactant systems. The effect of raising temperature on worm-like micellar solutions is the result of a balance between the dehydration of the surfactant head groups, which favors elongation, the kinetics of micellar disruption and the formation of structures with nearly zero curvature. Therefore, a viscosity maximum as a function of temperature is found in many systems. Reverse worm-like micelles with a hydrophilic core can also be formed in organic solvents, even in the absence of ionic components or water. Worm-like micelles are useful as templates for the formation of ordered mesoporous oxides. The interaction of micelles with silica species results in the formation of silica-surfactant complexes that later precipitate as hexagonal phase via a cooperative mechanism.

publication date

  • July 1, 2013