Vaccine Lab / Alfa Chemistry
Multifunctional Synthetic Potential of Cetyltrimethylammonium Chloride
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Multifunctional Synthetic Potential of Cetyltrimethylammonium Chloride

What Is Hexadecyltrimethylammonium Chloride?

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Hexadecyltrimethylammonium chloride, also known as cetyltrimethylammonium chloride (CTAC), is a cationic surfactant widely employed in numerous applications due to its exceptional surfactant properties. CTAC possesses a long hydrophobic alkyl chain and a positively charged quaternary ammonium head, allowing it to function as an excellent amphiphile in various systems.

Synthesis of Hexadecyltrimethylammonium Chloride

CTAC can be synthesized through the reaction of hexadecylamine and trimethylamine, followed by quaternization with hydrochloric acid. This synthetic pathway ensures high yields and purity of CTAC. The resulting compound is a white crystalline solid with good stability, solubility in water, and compatibility with a range of solvents. Its solid-state structure exhibits an orderly arrangement due to both the hydrophobic interactions between alkyl chains and electrostatic attractions between positively charged head groups and chloride ions.

Antimicrobial Properties of Hexadecyltrimethylammonium Chloride

CTAC's antimicrobial activity arises from its ability to disrupt the integrity of microbial cell membranes. The positively charged CTAC molecules preferentially interact with the negatively charged bacterial cell walls, leading to membrane destabilization and subsequent leakage of essential cellular components. This disruption ultimately results in cell death and the inhibition of microbial growth.

CTAC is particularly effective against gram-positive bacteria, due to the higher density of negatively charged cell walls in these organisms. CTAC has been shown to have activity against a wide range of bacteria, including Staphylococcus aureus, Streptococcus pneumoniae, Escherichia coli, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, and Klebsiella pneumoniae.

Hexadecyltrimethylammonium Chloride for Vaccines

CTAC, due to its unique amphiphilic nature and immunomodulatory properties, has emerged as a potential adjuvant for vaccine formulations. CTAC possesses cationic characteristics, rendering it capable of complexing with negatively charged biomolecules such as nucleic acids, proteins, and polysaccharides.

Yunhao Wang et al. developed a neoantigen nanovaccine (mD@cSMN) based on acidic/photosensitive dendritic cells (DC). In the synthesis procedure of mD@cSMN, CTAC is one of the important reaction raw materials.

Synthesis of mD@cSMN. Synthesis of mD@cSMN. [1]

Hexadecyltrimethylammonium Chloride for Drug Delivery

CTAC is being explored for its potential as a drug carrier or delivery system due to its cationic nature, which enables interaction with negatively charged drugs or biomolecules. Research is focused on developing targeted drug delivery systems using CTAC to enhance drug efficacy and reduce side effects. For example, cetyltrimethylammonium chloride-loaded mesoporous silica nanoparticles conjugated with human serum albumin (CTAC@MSNs-HSA) can be used as mitochondrion-targeting agents for anticancer therapy.

Synthesis of CTAC@MSNs-HSA.Synthesis of CTAC@MSNs-HSA. [2]

Hexadecyltrimethylammonium Chloride for Self-assembly and Supramolecular Chemistry

CTAC exhibits self-assembly behavior in certain conditions. Researchers are investigating its self-assembly properties and applications in supramolecular chemistry, such as the formation of micelles, vesicles, and other orderly structured aggregates. For example, the use of the cationic surfactant n-hexadecyltrimethylammonium chloride allows experimental control of the nanoscale microstructure and thus the flexibility of methyltrimethoxysilane (MTMS) aerogels.

Self-assembly of hexadecyltrimethylammonium chloride.Self-assembly of hexadecyltrimethylammonium chloride. [3]

Hexadecyltrimethylammonium Chloride for Nanomaterial Synthesis

HTAC is used as a surfactant in the synthesis of various nanomaterials, such as nanoparticles and nanowires. Researchers are investigating its role in improving the stability, morphology, and size control of these nanomaterials.


  1. Wang, Yunhao, et al. Advanced science, 2022, 9(11), 2105631.
  2. Tang, Menghuan, et al. RSC advances, 2020, 10(29), 17050-17057.
  3. Urata, Shingo, et al. Physical Chemistry Chemical Physics, 2021, 23(26), 14486-14495.

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