Thursday, 29 September 2011

Top 5 Industries to Use Surface Tension Devices


I had a little hiatus.  In Helsinki the weather is changing and new studies have begun so a brief break was necessary.

Companies and scientists use surface tension devices (tensiometers) for a number of different applications.  Certain industries and fields are more likely to use surface tension measurements to make interesting discoveries.  Below are the top five industries / fields that use surface tension:

1) Detergent & Soap
So many surfactants new surfactants are made everyday for making detergents and soap better.  Different formulations to help in cleaning clothes, hard surfaces or our bodies rely on surface tension to get the correct wettability.  A static surface tension device especially one that  can do high throughput surface tension instrument can determine the critical micelle concentration (CMC).  The CMC will tell you how efficient the clothes or whatever you are washing will get clean.  Most detergents should be above the CMC and most people use soap in excess.  A proper balance can be achieved in the formulation by finding this point with a tensiometer. 

2) Ink. Look at your printer.  From an image on your computer screen different inks are flying from a piezoelectric crystal (a small hole) onto a material like paper, drying, changing, repeating.  The inks used today are a far cry from the first inks used in ancient China.  The static surface tension makes sure the inks are not running too much where the dynamic surface tension makes sure the inks will dry fast enough.  With different inks, faster printing processes and different substrates (different paper, metals, plastics) finding the proper formulation is a lot more complicated than before. An instrument that can measure both the static and dynamic surface tension quickly, reliably and easily is needed.

3) Drug Discovery.  Finding a good drug with high efficacy in today's world is ever more difficult and expensive.  Many drugs might be too hydrophobic or have the wrong shape to be absorbed into the body through membranes to reach a target molecule.  A surface tension instrument can help identify the problem compounds before they get to a clinical trial and people discover that 3 million dollars was wasted for a drug that cannot be absorbed.

4) Cosmetics.  Want to see the wettability and application of different surfactants that can help absorb on the stratum corneum or deeper layers of the skin?  A surface tension instrument is one of the few instruments that can do this.  The skin made up of many layers of lipids.  People's skin differs with age, race and gender so cosmetic manufacturers want to find the best products with good wettability for these different kinds of people.

5) Lipid research.  Lipids are such a schizophrenic molecule.  They are both water loving and water hating.  They can be found alone but when in groups they can organize faster than an Egyptian revolution.  The different shapes are difficult to characterize and study from micelles, bilayers, to things weird things like sponge phase or cubic phase.  To study lipids one of the simplest ways was to use a monolayer trough which was originally understood by fantastic civil scientists like Benjamin Franklin and Agnes Pockels (two people that I have written about previously).  Even though this is an old technique people still explore the properties of many different lipids.  To mix it up scientists might add some protein, DNA or even the odd virus.