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Cetyltrimethylammonium bromide (CTAB), sometimes called cetrimonium bromide, is a quaternary ammonium salt with surface-active and antiseptic properties. It was mentioned in the chemical literature as early as 1936, when G. S. Hartley*, B. Collie, and C. S. Samis at University College London studied transport numbers of paraffin-chain salts in aqueous solutions.
In 1946, R. S. Shelton and co-workers at the William S. Merrell Company1 (Cincinnati) reported a synthesis of CTAB from cetyl (hexadecyl) bromide and trimethylamine. They prepared CTAB and several other compounds during a study of the efficacy of quaternary ammonium salts as what they termed “germicides”.
Today, in addition to its use as a topical antiseptic, CTAB has applications in medicine as an apoptosis-promoting anticancer agent, and in protein electrophoresis, DNA extraction buffer systems, and nanoparticle synthesis. In a report this month, Jonathan Boltersdorf, Taylor J. Woehl, and coauthors at the University of Maryland (College Park), the Army Research Laboratories (Adelphi, MD), General Technical Services (Wall Township, NJ), and the Naval Surface Warfare Center (Crane, IN) used CTAB as a surfactant in their examination of silver photodeposition onto gold nanorods.
1. After a long series of mergers and acquisitions, William S. Merrell is now part of Sanofi.
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