Aqueous dispersions of lightly cross-linked poly(4-vinylpyridine)/silica nanocomposite microgel particles are used as a sole emulsifier of methyl myristate and water (1:1 by volume) at various pH values and salt concentrations at 20 degrees C. These particles become swollen at low pH with the hydrodynamic diameter increasing from 250 nm at pH 8.8 to 630 nm at pH 2.7. For batch emulsions prepared at pH 3.4, oil-in-water (o/w) emulsions are formed that are stable to coalescence but exhibit creaming. Below pH 3.3, however, these emulsions are very unstable to coalescence and rapid phase separation occurs just after homogenization (pH-dependent). The pH for 50% ionization of the pyridine groups in the particles in the bulk (pK(a)) was determined to be 3.4 by acid titration measurements of the aqueous dispersion. Thus, the charged swollen particles no longer adsorb at the oil-water interface. For continuous emulsions (prepared at high pH with the pH then decreased abruptly or progressively), demulsification takes place rapidly below pH 3.3, implying that particles adsorbed at the oil-water interface can become charged (protonated) and detached from the interface in situ (pH-responsive). Furthermore, at a fixed pH of 4.0, addition of sodium chloride to the aqueous dispersion increases the degree of ionization of the particles and batch emulsions are significantly unstable to coalescence at a salt concentration of 0.24 mol kg(-1). The degree of ionization of such microgel particles is a critical factor in controlling the coalescence stability of o/w emulsions stabilized by them.
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