Langmuir : the ACS journal of surfaces and colloids

pH-dependent motion of self-propelled droplets due to Marangoni effect at neutral pH.

PMID 23369012


Oil droplets loaded with surfactant propel themselves with a velocity up to 6 mm s(-1) when they are placed in an aqueous phase of NaOH solution or buffer solution. The required driving force for such motion is generated on the interface of the droplets by the change in interfacial tension, due to deprotonation of the surfactant. This force induces Marangoni convection, which gives rise to a circulating flow inside the droplets. The droplets begin to move when the axis of this circulation deviates from the vertical line. This motion depends on the pH condition of the aqueous phase. When the initial value of pH is adjusted such that the pH exceeds the threshold at the equilibrium state, the droplets move spontaneously. It was seen that the droplets were independent of the material of the solid substrates because the droplets were not directly in contact with the surface of the substrate. The condition for the onset of this spontaneous motion was verified by comparing the prediction from the linear stability analysis with experiments. The stability analysis overestimates the value of the driving force, causing instability.

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