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Issue 38, 2016
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Electrokinetics of nanoparticle gel-electrophoresis

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Gel-electrophoresis has been demonstrated in recent decades to successfully sort a great variety of nanoparticles according to their size, charge, surface chemistry, and corona architecture. However, quantitative theoretical interpetations have been limited by the number and complexity of factors that influence particle migration. Theoretical models have been fragmented and incomplete with respect to their counterparts for free-solution electrophoresis. This paper unifies electrokinetic models that address complex nanoparticle corona architectures, corona and gel charge regulation (e.g., by the local pH), multi-component electrolytes, and non-linear electrostatics and relaxation effects. By comprehensively addressing the electrokinetic aspects of the more general gel-electrophoresis problem, in which short-ranged steric interactions are significant, a stage is set to better focus on the physicochemical and steric factors. In this manner, it is envisioned that noparticle gel-electrophoresis may eventually be advanced from a nanoparticle-characterization tool to one that explicitly probes the short-ranged interactions of nanoparticles with soft networks, such as synthetic gels and biological tissues. In this paper, calculations are undertaken that identify a generalized Hückel limit for nanoparticles in low-conductivity gels, and a new Smoluchowski limit for polyelectrolyte-coated particles in high-conductivity gels that is independent of the gel permeability. Also of fundamental interest is a finite, albeit small, electrophoretic mobility for uncharged particles in charged gels. Electrophoretic mobilities and drag coefficients (with electroviscous effects) for nanoparticles bearing non-uniform coronas show that relaxation effects are typically weak for the small nanoparticles (radius ≈3–10 nm) to which gel-electrophoresis has customarily been applied, but are profound for the larger nanoparticles (radius ≳ 40 nm in low conductivity gels) to which passivated gel-electrophoresis experiments have recently been applied. To demonstrate its practical application, the model is applied to (pH charge regulating) carboxylated polystyrene nanospheres in low-density passivated agarose gels (weak steric effects). This furnishes a new theoretical interpretation of literature data for which a finite diffuse-layer-thickness, pH-charge regulation, high charge, and relaxation effects dominate over the steric influences.

Graphical abstract: Electrokinetics of nanoparticle gel-electrophoresis

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Publication details

The article was received on 22 Jul 2016, accepted on 19 Aug 2016 and first published on 02 Sep 2016

Article type: Paper
DOI: 10.1039/C6SM01685E
Citation: Soft Matter, 2016,12, 8030-8048

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    Electrokinetics of nanoparticle gel-electrophoresis

    R. J. Hill, Soft Matter, 2016, 12, 8030
    DOI: 10.1039/C6SM01685E

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