Linear and nonlinear microrheology of lysozyme layers forming at the air–water interface
We report experiments studying the mechanical evolution of layers of the protein lysozyme adsorbing at the air–water interface using passive and active microrheology techniques to investigate the linear and nonlinear rheological response, respectively. Following formation of a new interface, the linear shear rheology, which we interrogate through the Brownian motion of spherical colloids at the interface, becomes viscoelastic with a complex modulus that has approximately power-law frequency dependence. The power-law exponent characterizing this frequency dependence decreases steadily with increasing layer age. Meanwhile, the nonlinear microrheology, probed via the rotational motion of magnetic nanowires at the interface, reveals a layer response characteristic of a shear-thinning power-law fluid with a flow index that decreases with age. We discuss two possible frameworks for understanding this mechanical evolution: gelation and the formation of a soft glass phase.