Thumbnail Image

Particles Confined by Fluid Interfaces: Imaging Particle Motion, Interface Deformation and Capillary Forces

Small solid particles, confined in two-dimensions by fluid interfaces, were studied by a variety of experimental methods to understand particle motion, menisci shapes near interface-supported particles, and capillary interactions among such particles. Unwanted evaporation was circumvented by adopting non-volatile ionic liquids to create the fluid interfaces. A related application, employment of ionic liquids to float cryo-microtomed polymer sections, was also developed. The Brownian motions of nanospheres and nanorods in free-standing ionic liquid films were visualized in situ by high resolution scanning electron microscopy, which images features almost 100√ó smaller than possible in an optical microscope. For suspensions that are dilute and films that are thick compared to the particle diameter, the translational and rotational diffusion coefficients determined by single-particle tracking agreed with existing theoretical predictions. In thinner films, a striking and unexpected dynamical pairing of nanospheres was observed, suggesting a balance of capillary and hydrodynamic interactions. Nanospheres at high concentration displayed subdiffusive caged motion and hexagonal-lattice crystallization. Concentrated nanorods in the thinner films transiently assembled into finite stacks but did not achieve high tetratic liquid crystalline order, perhaps because of spherical impurities. A small spherical microparticles on a cylindrically curved liquid interface, to maintain constant contact angle about its wetted periphery, locally induces a quadrupolar interface deformation. Measured by optical profilometry, this deformation was compared to a recent theoretical expression, and good agreement was noted. The interface quadrupoles lead to particle capillary interactions in analogy to a 2d electrostatic quadrupoles, and as one consequence, spheres on a cylindrical interface assemble tetragonally. The assembly was monitored in the optical microscope, with particles driven to assembly as predicted, into a tetragonal lattice aligned with the underlying cylindrical axis. Lastly, ionic liquids and their mixtures with low molecular weight solvents were applied as flotation liquids for cryo-ultramicrotomy. With control of glass transition temperature and liquid viscosity, flat and ultra-thin sections were reliably floated onto transmission electron microscopy grids at cryogenic temperature. Compared to established flotation media for soft polymer systems, the required time and skill are significantly reduced, and the operator was not exposed to noxious fumes.