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Langmuir. 2013 Mar 19;29(11):3654-61. doi: 10.1021/la400062b. Epub 2013 Mar 7.

Interface-induced disassembly of a self-assembled two-component nanoparticle system.

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Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering, The University of Kansas, Lawrence, Kansas 66046, USA.


We present a study of static and dynamic interfacial properties of self-assembled polyelectrolyte complex nanoparticles (size 110-120 nm) containing entrapped surfactant molecules at a fluid/fluid interface. Surface tension vs time measurements of an aqueous solution of these polyelectrolyte complex nanoparticles (PCNs) show a concentration-dependent biphasic adsorption to the air/water interface while interfacial microrheology data show a concentration-dependent initial increase in the surface viscosity (up to 10(-7) N·m/s), followed by a sharp decrease (10(-9) N·m/s). Direct visualization of the air/water interface shows disappearance of particles from the interface over time. On the basis of these observations, we propose that the PCNs at fluid/fluid interfaces exist in two states: initial accumulation of PCNs at the air/water interface as nanoparticles, followed by interface induced disassembly of the accumulated PCNs into their components. The lack of change in particle size, charge, and viscosity of the bulk aqueous solution of PCNs with time indicates that this disintegration of the self-assembled PCNs is an interfacial phenomenon. Changes in energy encountered by the PCNs at the interface lead to instability of the self-assembled system and dissociation into its components. Such systems can be used for applications requiring directed delivery and triggered release of entrapped surfactants or macromolecules at fluid/fluid interfaces.

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