Compositional ripening of particle-stabilized drops in a three-liquid system

Javier Otero, Steven Meeker, Paul S. Clegg*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We present experimental studies of two aqueous drops, stabilized by colloidal silica, which are placed close to each other in a bath of toluene, ethanol and surplus colloidal silica. If one of the drops is enriched in ethanol while the other is pure water then we observe the spontaneous formation of small droplets at the surface of the water drop closest to its neighbour. These droplets are then observed to form all along the path to the ethanol enriched drop until they make a complete bridge. We relate this behaviour to the diffusion pathways on the underlying three-fluid phase diagram. We argue that the phenomena is a version of compositional ripening where the transfer of the dispersed phase leads to the spontaneous formation of droplets in the continuous phase. We show that, while the large drops are particle-stabilized, the spontaneously formed droplets are not. Instead the presence of surplus particles leads to the droplets gelling as an elastic bridge. The phenomenology at long times and at low particle concentrations becomes increasingly surprising.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3783-3790
Number of pages8
JournalSoft Matter
Issue number19
Early online date1 May 2018
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 1 May 2018


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