Control over colloidal aggregation in monolayers of latex particles at the oil-water interface

Langmuir. 2006 May 23;22(11):4936-45. doi: 10.1021/la060052n.


The controlled generation of 2D aggregate networks is studied experimentally using micrometer-sized polystyrene latex particles attached to the oil-water interface. Starting from an initially crystalline monolayer, appropriate combinations of carefully added electrolyte and surfactant enable control over both the fractal dimension and the kinetics of aggregation. Remarkably, the colloidal crystals formed upon first spreading remain stable, even for days, when substantial amounts of electrolyte are added to the aqueous phase. Pressure-area isotherms reveal a slow time evolution of the electrostatic dipole-dipole interaction. When the electrostatic interaction has been sufficiently weakened, aggregation proceeds in well-defined, reproducible manner. The aggregation process is analyzed using quantitative video microscopy. The evolution of the cluster size distribution and its moments is characterized, and static and dynamic scaling exponents are derived to identify the nature of the aggregation process. In the range of concentrations studied here, the kinetics all agree with a "fast", diffusion-limited cluster type of aggregation. However, the fractal dimension strongly depends on the composition of the aqueous subphase. Rather dense structures are found when only electrolyte is used, whereas more open structures are obtained when even small amounts of surfactant are added. It is suggested that this structural dependency is related to the effect of surfactant on the contact angle and its consequences for the anisotropic nature of the capillary interactions.