Elastic stresses reverse Ostwald ripening†
When liquid droplets nucleate and grow in a polymer network, compressive stresses can significantly increase their internal pressure, reaching values that far exceed the Laplace pressure. When droplets have grown in a polymer network with a stiffness gradient, droplets in relatively stiff regions of the network tend to dissolve, favoring growth of droplets in softer regions. Here, we show that this elastic ripening can be strong enough to reverse the direction of Ostwald ripening: large droplets can shrink to feed the growth of smaller ones. To numerically model these experiments, we generalize the theory of elastic ripening to account for gradients in solubility alongside gradients in mechanical stiffness.
- This article is part of the themed collection: Liquid Composites