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Micelles and Vesicles

Synonyms

Definition

Amphiphiles are compounds bearing residues with different solubilities. Amphiphiles form aggregates in a selective solvent at concentrations higher than a certain level (i.e., critical micelle concentration). These aggregates are called micelles. Amphiphiles form micelles with various types of shapes including sphere, cylinder, and disk, depending on the chemical structure and the environmental conditions (Fig. 1). When a micelle of disk shape grows showing curvature and becomes a sphere possessing the solvent inside, this aggregate is called vesicle. Cell membranes are a typical example of vesicles.

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Fig. 1

Conceptual illustrations of spherical micelle (a), cylindrical micelle (b), disk micelle (c), and vesicle (d)

Background

Micelles and vesicles are assemblies formed from amphiphiles which associate through solvophobic interaction