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Science. 2013 Oct 25;342(6157):460-3. doi: 10.1126/science.1242852.

Stabilizing liquid drops in nonequilibrium shapes by the interfacial jamming of nanoparticles.

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Polymer Science and Engineering Department, University of Massachusetts, 120 Governors Drive, Amherst, MA 01003, USA.


Nanoparticles assemble at the interface between two fluids into disordered, liquid-like arrays where the nanoparticles can diffuse laterally at the interface. Using nanoparticles dispersed in water and amine end-capped polymers in oil, nanoparticle surfactants are generated in situ at the interface overcoming the inherent weak forces governing the interfacial adsorption of nanoparticles. When the shape of the liquid domain is deformed by an external field, the surface area increases and more nanoparticles adsorb to the interface. Upon releasing the field, the interfacial area decreases, jamming the nanoparticle surfactants and arresting further shape change. The jammed nanoparticles remain disordered and liquid-like, enabling multiple, consecutive deformation and jamming events. Further stabilization is realized by replacing monofunctional ligands with difunctional versions that cross-link the assemblies. The ability to generate and stabilize liquids with a prescribed shape poses opportunities for reactive liquid systems, packaging, delivery, and storage.

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