Interfacially-adsorbed particles enhance the self-propulsion of oil droplets in aqueous surfactant†
Understanding the chemo-mechanical mechanisms that direct the motion of self-propulsive colloids is important for the development of active materials and exploration of dynamic, collective phenomena. Here, we demonstrate that the adsorption of solid particles on the surface of solubilizing oil droplets can significantly enhance the droplets’ self-propulsion speeds. We investigate the relationship between the self-propulsion of bromodecane oil droplets containing silica particles of varying concentration in Triton X-100 surfactant, noting up to order of magnitude increases in propulsion speeds. Using fluorescently labeled silica, we observe packing of the particles at the oil–water interfaces of the rear pole of the moving droplets. For bromodecane oil droplets in Triton X-100, the highest droplet speeds were achieved at approximately 40% particle surface coverage of the droplet interface. We find particle-assisted propulsion enhancement in ionic surfactants and different oil droplet compositions as well, demonstrating the breadth of this effect. While a precise mechanism for the propulsion enhancement remains unclear, the simple addition of silica particles to droplet oil–water interfaces provides a straightforward route to tune active droplet dynamics.
- This article is part of the themed collection: 2021 Soft Matter Emerging Investigators