Soft particles at a fluid interface
Particles added to a fluid interface can be used as a surface stabilizer in the food, oil and cosmetic industries. As an alternative to rigid particles, it is promising to consider highly deformable particles that can adapt their conformation at the interface. In this study we compute the shapes of soft elastic particles using molecular dynamics simulations of a cross-linked polymer gel, complemented by continuum calculations based on linear elasticity. It is shown that the particle shape is not only affected by the Young's modulus of the particle, but also strongly depends on whether the gel is partially or completely wetting the fluid interface. We find that the molecular simulations for the partially wetting case are very accurately described by the continuum theory. By contrast, when the gel is completely wetting the fluid interface the linear theory breaks down and we reveal that molecular details have a strong influence on the equilibrium shape.