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Preliminary analysis of the distribution of water in human hair by small-angle neutron scattering by SCC

Yash Kamath , N. Sanjeeva Murthy , Ram Ramaprasad


Diffusion and distribution of water in hair can reveal the internal structure of hair that determines the penetration of various products used to treat hair. The distribution of water into different morphological components in unmodified hair, cuticle-free hair, and hair saturated with oil at various levels of humidity was examined using small-angle neutron scattering (SANS) by substituting water with deuterium oxide (D 2 O). Infrared spectroscopy was used to follow hydrogen-deuterium exchange. Water present in hair gives basically two types of responses in SANS: (i) interference patterns, and (ii) central diffuse scattering (CDS) around the beam stop. The amount of water in the matrix between the intermediate filaments that gives rise to interference patterns remained essentially constant over the 50–98% humidity range without swelling this region of the fiber extensively. This observation suggests that a significant fraction of water in the hair, which contributes to the CDS, is likely located in a different morphological region of hair that is more like pores in a fibrous structure, which leads to significant additional swelling of the fiber. Comparison of the scattering of hair treated with oil shows that soybean oil, which diffuses less into hair, allows more water into hair than coconut oil. These preliminary results illustrate the utility of SANS for evaluating and understanding the diffusion of deuterated liquids into different morphological structures in hair.

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