Interparticle Capillary Forces at a Fluid–Fluid Interface with Strong Polymer-Induced Aging
We report on a measurement of forces between particles adsorbed at a water–oil interface in the presence of an oil-soluble polymer. The cationic polymer interacts electrostatically with the negatively charged particles, thereby modulating the particle contact angle and the magnitude of capillary attraction between the particles. However, polymer adsorption to the interface also generates an increase in the apparent interfacial viscosity over several orders of magnitude in a time span of a few hours. We have designed an experiment in which repeated motion trajectories are measured on pairs of particles. The experiment gives an independent quantification of the interfacial drag coefficient (10–7–10–4 Ns/m) and of the interparticle capillary forces (0.1–10 pN). We observed that the attractive capillary force depends on the amount of polymer in the oil phase and on the particle pair. However, the attraction appears to be independent of the surface rheology, with changes over a wide range of apparent viscosity values due to aging. Given the direction (attraction), the range (∼μm), and the distance dependence (∼1/S5) of the observed interparticle force, we interpret the force as being caused by quadrupolar deformations of the fluid–fluid interface induced by particle surface roughness. The results suggest that capillary forces are equilibrated in the early stages of interface aging and thereafter do not change anymore, even though strong changes in surface rheology still occur. The described experimental approach is powerful for studying dissipative as well as conservative forces of micro- and nanoparticles at fluid–fluid interfaces for systems out of equilibrium.