The interaction of anionic silica nanoparticles with nonionic decaethylene glycol mono-dodecyl ether (C12E10) and ionic surfactants [both anionic sodium dodecyl sulfate (SDS) and cationic dodecyl trimethyl ammonium bromide (DTAB)] has been studied by small-angle neutron scattering and dynamic light scattering. The nonionic and cationic surfactant micelles are adsorbed on nanoparticles, whereas no adsorption of SDS surfactant micelles on nanoparticles is observed. The adsorption of C12E10 micelles provides additional steric stability to nanoparticles. However, the adsorption of cationic micelles leads to micelles-mediated fractal aggregation of nanoparticles. In the case of SDS surfactant, nanoparticles and micelles coexist in the solution. Furthermore, the adsorption behavior of surfactant micelles on nanoparticles has been tuned using a combination of nonionic and ionic surfactants. The combination of nonionic C12E10 with anionic SDS makes surfactant micelles to desorb from nanoparticles, whereas the combination of nonionic C12E10 with cationic DTAB leads to fractal aggregation of nanoparticles. The systematic transitions of micelle adsorption to desorption on nanoparticles with a C12E10–SDS mixed surfactant system and the aggregation of nanoparticles in a C12E10–DTAB mixed surfactant system as a function of ionic surfactant (SDS or DTAB) concentration have been examined. The micelles desorption from nanoparticles follows an exponential decay behavior with an increase in SDS concentration in C12E10–SDS, whereas the aggregate size shows an exponential growth with DTAB in C12E10–DTAB. The electrostatic interactions between nanoparticles and surfactant micelles are found to be dominating for tuning these transitions.

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