micelle | Energy Glossary

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1. n. [Enhanced Oil Recovery]

An ordered aggregate of surfactant molecules formed when the surfactant concentration in a solution reaches a critical point, thus lowering the free energy of the system. Within an aqueous phase, the molecules in a micelle organize such that the hydrophilic head group is the outermost part of the micelle and the hydrophobic tail group is inside the micellar surface. Within an oil phase a reverse, or inverse, micelle can form: The surfactant molecules then organize such that the hydrophobic tail group is outermost, and the hydrophilic head group is inside the surface. A micelle can solubilize oil in water; a reverse micelle can solubilize water in oil.

See: surfactant

Surfactant micelle.