Particle aggregation mechanisms in ionic liquids†
Aggregation of sub-micron and nano-sized polystyrene latex particles was studied in room temperature ionic liquids (ILs) and in their water mixtures by time-resolved light scattering. The aggregation rates were found to vary with the IL-to-water molar ratio in a systematic way. At the water side, the aggregation rate is initially small, but increases rapidly with increasing IL content, and reaches a plateau value. This behaviour resembles simple salts, and can be rationalized by the competition of double-layer and van der Waals forces as surmised by the classical theory of Derjaguin, Landau, Verwey, and Overbeek (DLVO). At the IL side, aggregation slows down again. Two generic mechanisms could be identified to be responsible for the stabilization in ILs, namely viscous stabilization and solvation stabilization. Viscous stabilization is important in highly viscous ILs, as it originates from the slowdown of the diffusion controlled aggregation due to the hindrance of the diffusion in a viscous liquid. The solvation stabilization mechanism is system specific, but can lead to a dramatic slowdown of the aggregation rate in ILs. This mechanism is related to repulsive solvation forces that are operational in ILs due to the layering of the ILs close to the surfaces. These two stabilization mechanisms are suspected to be generic, as they both occur in different ILs, and for particles differing in surface functionalities and size.