Temperature-dependent sum-frequency scattering spectroscopy is used to study the properties of hexadecane and dodecane oil droplets in water. The sum-frequency scattering spectra contain vibrational bands that correspond to the symmetric and antisymmetric CH stretching vibrations of the methylene (CH2) and methyl (CH3) groups of the alkane molecules. The relative amplitudes of the vibrational bands provide information on the surface structure and the shape of the oil droplets. We study the sum-frequency scattering spectra over a temperature range of −48 to 24 °C, including the freezing transitions of the water matrix and the oil droplets. Hexadecane oil droplets freeze at a higher temperature than the surrounding water, whereas dodecane oil droplets freeze at a lower temperature than the surrounding water. This allows us to independently study the freezing effect of oil and water on the surface structure of the oil droplets. In both cases, freezing leads to a change in the polarization dependencies that are valid in the case of the spherical-symmetric shapes that the oil droplets assume when both water and oil are liquid. We find that the freezing of water leads to a strong distortion of the liquid dodecane surface but has little effect on the surface of already solidified hexadecane. For completely frozen emulsions a further decrease in temperature is observed to lead to a further distortion of the surface of the solid oil particles, which might be caused by increasing hardness of the ice matrix encapsulating the particles.

J. Chem. Phys.
Ultrafast Spectroscopy

Smit, W., Smolentsev, N., Versluis, J., Roke, S., & Bakker, H. (2016). Freezing effects of oil-in-water emulsions studied by sum-frequency scattering spectroscopy. J. Chem. Phys., 145(Article number: 044706), 1–7. doi:10.1063/1.4959128