Effective interactions and equilibrium configurations of colloidal particles on a sessile droplet
We study the free energy landscapes of a pair of micron-sized spherical particles floating at the surface of a sessile droplet. The particles are subjected to radial external forces resulting in a deformation of the droplet shape relative to the reference shape of a spherical cap. This deformation leads to tangential forces on the particles. For small deformations and for the contact angle θ0 at the substrate being equal to π/2, the corresponding linearized Young-Laplace equation is solved analytically. The solution is constructed by employing the method of images from electrostatics, where each of the particles plays the role of a capillary monopole and the substrate is replaced by a virtual drop with image charges and by imposing the conditions of fixed droplet volume and vanishing total force on the droplet. The substrate boundary conditions determine the signs of the image capillary charges and therefore also the strength of the tangential forces on the particles. In the cases of an arbitrary contact angle θ0 these forces are calculated numerically by employing a finite element method to find the equilibrium shape of the droplet for those configurations in which the particles are close to the local free energy minima.