Surface Active Lactams

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N-lower alkyl pyrrolidones have found wide commercial acceptance as non-toxic, aprotic chemical solvents. However, absence of hydrophobic-lipophobic balance in these molecules prevents micellular formation. Consequently, these molecules possess no significant aqueous surfactant properties. Linear amine oxides are known to possess high surfactant activity; however, these compounds are not stable at high temperatures and cannot be employed in metalworking or high-temperature fiber processing. This invention aims to provide a class of inexpensive and commercially-available compounds that have excellent surfactant and complexing properties, as well as viscosity-building and wetting properties.

The invention relates to properties and uses of N-hydrocarbon substituted lactams, particularly N-alkyl substituted lactams with hydrophobic radicals such as linear or branched chain alkyl groups containing from 8 to 27 carbon atoms, most preferably micelle forming pyrrolidones having 12 to 16 carbon atoms in the R? group. The invention particularly relates to the uses of the N-hydrocarbon substituted lactams which involve surfactant properties, such as solubility, wetting, viscosity building, emulsifying and/or complexing properties.


  • Provides improved surfactant-complexant agents which are readily obtained in an inexpensive and commercially feasible manner
  • Provides a group of compounds having excellent surfactant and complexing properties
  • Provides a group of compounds having viscosity building and wetting properties
  • Provides specialized processes for using micelle forming pyrrolidones and to provide novel compounds resulting from such processes

Market Potential/Applications

Surface active lactams are useful in a wide variety of industries and products. As a dry cleaning solvent, these compounds show excellent dirt, stain, and spot removal properties. Water-soluble stains like beer, wine, tea, fruit, and ink are more easily removed with the use of this solvent. Further, this compound can minimize or eliminate odors retained in clothing, and when added to standard laundry detergent, soil and stains are effectively removed.

The diverse applications of this compound further include: solubilization of insoluble compounds; anti-static, slip and block agents in machining of plastics; fragrance-retaining agents in perfumes; viscosity builders for gels and pastes; dye-penetrating agents; beverage clarifiers for beer and wine; surfactants for wettable powders; emulsifiable concentrate formulations for agricultural chemicals; agents for increasing the rate of dissolution of normally insoluble tablets or pills; or as detoxifying agents.

For further information please contact

University of Texas,
Austin, USA
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