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Syllabus for

Academic year
KTK095 - Surface chemistry
Syllabus adopted 2020-02-19 by Head of Programme (or corresponding)
Owner: MPMCN
7,5 Credits
Grading: TH - Pass with distinction (5), Pass with credit (4), Pass (3), Fail
Education cycle: Second-cycle
Major subject: Chemical Engineering

Teaching language: English
Application code: 30125
Open for exchange students: Yes
Block schedule: A
Minimum participants: 8
Maximum participants: 60

Module   Credit distribution   Examination dates
Sp1 Sp2 Sp3 Sp4 Summer course No Sp
0199 Examination 7,5c Grading: TH   7,5c   26 Oct 2020 pm J   05 Jan 2021 am J,  20 Aug 2021 pm J

In programs



Martin Andersson

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General entry requirements for Master's level (second cycle)
Applicants enrolled in a programme at Chalmers where the course is included in the study programme are exempted from fulfilling the requirements above.

Specific entry requirements

English 6 (or by other approved means with the equivalent proficiency level)
Applicants enrolled in a programme at Chalmers where the course is included in the study programme are exempted from fulfilling the requirements above.

Course specific prerequisites

Basic knowledge in physical chemistry and organic chemistry on bachelor level or equivalent is required.


The main aim of the course is to make the students aware of how surface active molecules behave in solution and at surfaces and how their behavior can be taken advantage of for many different applications of science, technology, and biology. The level of understanding should be such that the students in their profession as engineers will be able to predict the behavior of surface active components in various industrial and biological areas. Applications of surface active molecules, i.e., surfactants, surface active polymers, and polar lipids, range from heavy industrial applications such as mineral ore flotation and paper-making, via detergents and personal care products, to food and pharmaceuticals. Surface chemistry is a key discipline in the transition from oil-based to water-based formulations in areas such as paints, printing inks, etc. The course also aims at illustrating such possibilities. Surfactants are the largest class of so-called specialty chemicals and are therefore in focus for REACH, the new EU regulation on chemicals and their safe use. A general information about REACH will be given with examples taken from the surfactant area.

Learning outcomes (after completion of the course the student should be able to)

  • describe how surfactants, surface active polymers, and polar lipids self-aggregate in solution and at surfaces
  • describe the environmental issues related to surfactants
  • understand how a balance between attractive and repulsive interactions governs the stability of dispersed systems
  • understand the role of surfactants as emulsifier, wetting agent, foaming agent, and active ingredient in detergents
  • describe the difference in physicochemical behavior between a low molecular weight surfactant and a surface active polymer and relate these differences to practical uses
  • understand how combinations of surfactants and of a surfactant and a polymer behave
  • understand the fundamental differences between a microemulsion and an emulsion and describe advantages and disadvantages with both system
  • describe how surfactant self-assembly can be taken advantage of for organic and bioorganic synthesis and for preparation of inorganic nanomaterials
  • understand how formulations based on organic solvents may be replaced by surfactant-based formulations such as emulsions and microemulsions as a way to make more environmentally benign products
Additionally, this course aims to provide entrepreneurial experiences according to Chalmers definition including: 1. that students create value (for example economical, ecological, social, mental, physiological etc.) for others; 2. understand an idea development process; and 3. through these activities have managed uncertainty and reflected on one's own and others' capabilities. The entrepreneurial experience is provided through a compulsory group project.


The course is based on the following lectures. In addition, there are five compulsory exercises.
  • introduction to surfactants
  • surfactant micellization
  • phase behavior of concentrated surfactant systems
  • physicochemical properties of surfactants and polymers containing oxyethylene groups
  • mixed micelles
  • microemulsions
  • intermolecular interactions and colloidal forces
  • polymers in solution
  • novel surfactants
  • surface active polymers
  • surfactant-polymer systems
  • surface tension and adsorption at the air-water interface
  • adsorption of surfactants at solid surfaces
  • wetting and wetting agents, hydrophobation and hydrophobizing agents
  • foaming of surfactant solutions
  • emulsions and emulsifiers
  • microemulsions for soil and oil removal
  • chemical reactions in microheterogeneous systems


The course contains 13 two-hour lectures, 5 four-hour exercises and one compulsory group project.  


Bengt Kronberg, Krister Holmberg, and Björn Lindman, Surface Chemistry of Surfactants and Polymers, Wiley 2014, ISBN 978-1-119-96124-6

Examination including compulsory elements

The examination is based on a written exam, grades TH, approved exercises and approved group project.

Page manager Published: Mon 28 Nov 2016.