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Understanding the Classification and Applications of Surfactants in Chemistry

Surface active agents, or surfactants, encompass various types, and multiple classification methods exist. They can be categorized based on their functions into wetting agents, penetrating agents, emulsifiers, dispersants, softeners, antistatic agents, and detergents. A common classification method is based on the ionization characteristics of surfactants in aqueous solutions, dividing them into four main types: anionic, cationic, amphoteric, and nonionic.

I. Anionic Surfactants

Anionic surfactants are those that, when ionized in water, exhibit a negatively charged surface-active effect. Structurally, anionic surfactants can be classified into four categories: fatty acid salts, sulfonic acid salts, sulfate esters, and phosphate esters.

II. Cationic Surfactants 

Cationic surfactants generate positively charged surface-active ions when ionized in water. They have hydrophobic groups similar to anionic surfactants. Cationic surfactants with nitrogen atoms in their hydrophilic groups are classified into amine salts, quaternary ammonium salts, and heterocyclic types.

III. Amphoteric Surfactants

Surfactants with hydrophilic structures containing both cationic and anionic groups are termed amphoteric surfactants. They mainly include imidazole-type and amino acid-type surfactants.

IV. Nonionic Surfactants 

Nonionic surfactants, the second most abundant after anionic surfactants, comprise polyoxyethylene-type, polyol-type, and alkylolamide-type surfactants. These can be further subdivided into various categories, as detailed in surfactant literature.

Examples of Anionic Surfactants:

Sodium laureth sulfate with excellent cleaning, emulsifying, and foaming properties.

Dodecyl ammonium sulfate with superior cleaning, emulsifying, and hard water resistance for shampoos, bath liquids, and foaming agents.

Low-irritation anionic surfactant with excellent cleaning ability for shampoos, body wash, and cleaning agents (70% concentration).

Low-irritation anionic surfactant with excellent cleaning ability for shampoos, body wash, and cleaning agents (28% concentration).

Sodium dodecyl sulfate with outstanding cleaning, foaming, and emulsifying properties for shampoos and detergents.

Sulfonic acid:
Dodecyl benzene sulfonic acid with strong cleaning power and rich foam for detergents.

Lauryl ether sulfate triethanolamine with applications in shampoos, bubble baths, and cleaning agents (special glass cleaner).

Examples of Cationic Surfactants:

Sodium isobutyl sulfonate with excellent cleaning and emulsifying power, good hard water resistance, biodegradable, and used in shampoos and dishwashing detergents (60% concentration).

SCI65 and SCI85:
Sodium fatty alcohol hydroxyethyl sulfonate with good skin compatibility, skincare properties, and mildness, suitable for shampoos and bath products.

Examples of Nonionic Surfactants:

COMPERLAN 100C and COMPERLAN COD: Coconut oil fatty acid monoethanolamide with good thickening and foaming properties for shampoos, shower gels, pearlescent lotions, and toiletries.

GLUCOPON 600 CSUP and GLUCOPON 650 EC (APG): Alkyl polyglucoside surfactants, biodegradable, used in dishwashing detergents, cleansers, liquid laundry detergents, and hard surface cleaners.

PLANTACARE 1200 UP and PLANTACARE 2000 UP (APG): Alkyl polyglucoside surfactants with mild and biodegradable properties, used as auxiliary surfactants in shampoos, shower gels, and foaming bath products.

AEO-3/7/9 and 10/15/20/40: Fatty alcohol ethoxylates with detergent, emulsifying, and degreasing properties, suitable for low-foaming laundry powders.

GENAPOL UD-080: Hydrogenated castor oil ethoxylate with good foam and biodegradability, used in various hard surface cleaners.

Liposorb SQO: Dehydrated sorbitol monostearate used as a W/O emulsifier.

Examples of Amphoteric Surfactants:

DEHYTON K: Cocamidopropyl betaine, an amphoteric surfactant, used as a formulation ingredient in various cleansing products.

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