Microstructure and rheology of particle stabilized emulsions: Effects of particle shape and inter-particle interactions

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Using fumed and spherical silica particles of similar hydrodynamic size, we investigated the effects of particle shape and inter-particle interactions on the formation, stability and rheology of bromohexadecane-in-water Pickering emulsions. The interparticle interactions were varied from repulsive to attractive by modifying the salt concentration in the aqueous phase. Optical microscope images revealed smaller droplet sizes for the fumed silica stabilized emulsions. All the emulsions remained stable for several weeks. Cryo-SEM images of the emulsion droplets showed a hexagonally packed single layer of particles at oil-water interfaces in emulsions stabilized with silica spheres, irrespective of the nature of the inter-particle interactions. Thus, entropic, excluded volume interactions dominate the fate of spherical particles at oil-water interfaces. On the other hand, closely packed layers of particles were observed at oil-water interfaces for the fumed silica stabilized emulsions for both attractive and repulsive interparticle interactions. At the high salt concentrations, attractive inter-particles interactions led to aggregation of fumed silica particles, and multiple layers of these particles were then observed on the droplet surfaces. A network of fumed silica particles was also observed between the emulsion droplets, suggesting that enthalpic interactions are responsible for the determining particle configurations at oil-water interfaces as well as in the aqueous phase. Steady shear viscosity measurements over a range of shear stresses, as well as oscillatory shear measurements at 1 Hz confirm the presence of a network in fumed silica suspensions and emulsions, and the lack of such a network when spherical particles are used. The fractal structure of fumed silica leads to several contact points and particle interlocking in the water as well as on the bromohexadecane-water interfaces, with corresponding effects on the structure and rheology of the emulsions. The attenuation of droplet motion due to the formation of a particle network can be exploited for stabilizing emulsions and for modulating their rheology.

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Journal of Colloid and Interface Science