Coupling between the Dynamics of Water and Surfactants in Lyotropic Liquid Crystals.

Abstract

Bilayers composed of lipid or surfactant molecules are central to biological membranes and lamellar lyotropic liquid crystalline (LLC) phases. Common to these systems are phases that exhibit either ordered or disordered packing of the hydrophobic tails. In this work, we study the impact of surfactant ordering, i.e., disordered Lα and ordered Lβ LLC phases, on the dynamics of water and sodium ions in the lamellar phases of dicarboxylate gemini surfactants. We study the different phases at identical hydration levels by changing the length of the hydrophobic tails; surfactants with shorter tails form Lα phases and those with longer tails form Lβ phases. We find that the Lα phases exhibit lower density and greater compressibility than the Lβ phases, with a hydration-dependent headgroup surface area. These structural differences significantly affect the relative dynamic properties of the phases, primarily the mobility of the surfactant molecules tangential to the bilayer surface, as well as the rates of water and ion diffusion. We find ∼20-50% faster water diffusion in the Lα phases compared to the Lβ phases, with the differences most pronounced at low hydration. This coupling between water dynamics and surfactant mobility is verified using additional simulations in which the surfactant tails are frozen. Our study indicates that gemini surfactant LLCs provide an important prototypical system for characterizing properties shared with more complex biological lipid membranes.

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