Triton X-100

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Triton X-100 (C14H22O(C2H4O)n) is a nonionic surfactant that has a hydrophilic polyethylene oxide chain (on average it has 9.5 ethylene oxide units) and an aromatic hydrocarbon lipophilic or hydrophobic group. The hydrocarbon group is a 4-(1,1,3,3-tetramethylbutyl)-phenyl group.

Undiluted Triton X-100 is a clear viscous fluid (but less viscous than undiluted glycerol) owing to the hydrogen bonding of its hydrophilicpolyethylene oxide parts. Undiluted Triton X-100 has a viscosity of about 270 centipoise at 25 °C which comes down to about 80 centipoise at 50 °C. Triton X-100 is soluble at 25 °C in water, toluene, xylene, trichloroethylene, ethylene glycol, ethyl ether, ethyl alcohol, isopropyl alcohol, ethylene dichloride, but unless a coupling agent like oleic acid is used, Triton X-100 is insoluble in kerosene, mineral spirits, and naphtha.

Triton X-100 is a commonly used detergent in laboratories. Triton X-100 is widely used to lyse cells to extract protein or organelles, or to permeabilize the membranes of living cells.
Some applications include

  • Ingredient in influenza vaccine (Fluzone)
  • Permeabilizing unfixed (or lightly fixed) eukaryotic cell membranes
  • Solubilizing membrane proteins in their native state in conjunction with zwitterionic detergents such as CHAPS
  • Part of the lysis buffer (usually in a 5% solution in alkaline lysis buffer) in DNA extraction
  • Reducing surface tension of aqueous solutions during immunostaining (usually at a concentration of 0.1-0.5% in TBS or PBS Buffer)
  • Dispersion of carbon materials for soft composite materials
  • Restricting colony expansion in Aspergillus nidulans in microbiology
  • Decellularization of animal-derived tissues
  • Removing SDS from SDS-PAGE gels and renature the proteins within the gel

Apart from laboratory use, Triton X-100 can be found in several types of cleaning compounds, ranging from heavy-duty industrial products to gentle detergents. It is also a popular ingredient in homemade vinyl record cleaning fluids together with distilled water and isopropyl alcohol. It is a good micellar catalyst.

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