Hypotheses: A quantitative molecular-thermodynamic theory of the growth of giant wormlike micelles of nonionic surfactants can be developed on the basis of a generalized model, which includes the classical "phase separation" and "mass action" models as special cases. The generalized model describes sphero-cylindrical micelles, which are simultaneously multicomponent and polydisperse in size.
Theory: By analytical minimization of the free-energy functional we derived explicit expressions for the chain-extension and chain-end distribution functions in the hydrocarbon core of mixed micelles from two surfactants of different chainlengths.
Findings: The hydrocarbon core of a two-component micelle is divided in two regions, outer and inner, where the ends of the shorter and longer chains are located. The derived analytical expression for the chain-conformation free energy implies that the mixing of surfactants with different chainlengths is always nonideal and synergistic, i.e. it leads to decrease of the micellar free energy and to enhancement of micellization and micelle growth. The derived expressions are applicable to surfactants with different headgroups (nonionic, ionic, zwitterionic) and to micelles of different shapes (spherical, wormlike, lamellar). The results can be incorporated in a quantitative theory of the growth of giant mixed micelles in formulations with practical applications in detergency.