Surfactant concentration modulates the motion and placement of microparticles in an inhomogeneous electric field†
This study examined the effects of surfactants on the motion and positioning of microparticles in an inhomogeneous electric field. The microparticles were suspended in oil with a surfactant and the electric field was generated using sawtooth-patterned electrodes. The microparticles were trapped, oscillating, or attached to the electrodes. The proportion of microparticles in each state was defined by the concentration of surfactant and the voltage applied to the electrodes. Based on the trajectory of the microparticles in the electric field, we developed a new physical model in which the surfactant adsorbed on the microparticles allowed the microparticles to be charged by contact with the electrodes, with either positive or negative charges, while the non-adsorbed surfactant micellizing in the oil contributed to charge relaxation. A simulation based on this model showed that the charging and charge relaxation, as modulated by the surfactant concentration, can explain the trajectories and proportion of the trapped, oscillating, and attached microparticles. These results will be useful for the development of novel self-assembly and transport technologies and colloids sensitive to electricity.