Precise Self-Positioning of Colloidal Particles on Liquid EmulsionDroplets

Shir R Liber, Alexander V Butenko, Moshe Caspi, Shani Guttman, Moty Schultz, Andrew Schofield, Moshe Deutsch, Eli Sloutskin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Decorating emulsion droplets by particles stabilizes foodstuff and pharmaceuticals. Interfacial particles also influence aerosol formation, thus impacting atmospheric CO2 exchange. While studies of particles at disordered droplet interfaces abound in the literature, such studies for ubiquitous ordered interfaces are not available. Here, we report such an experimental study, showing that particles residing at crystalline interfaces of liquid droplets spontaneously self-position to specific surface locations, identified as structural topological defects in the crystalline surface monolayer. This monolayer forms at temperature T = Ts, leaving the droplet liquid and driving at Td < Ts a spontaneous shape-change transition of the droplet from spherical to icosahedral. The particle’s surface position remains unchanged in the transition, demonstrating these positions to coincide with the vertices of the sphere-inscribed icosahedron. Upon further cooling, droplet shape-changes to other polyhedra occur, with the particles remaining invariably at the polyhedra’s vertices. At still lower temperatures, the particles are spontaneously expelled from the droplets. Our results probe the molecular-scale elasticity of quasi-two-dimensional curved crystals, impacting also other fields, such as protein positioning on cell membranes, controlling essential biological functions. Using ligand-decorated particles, and the precise temperature-tunable surface position control found here, may also allow using these droplets for directed supra-droplet self-assembly into larger structures, with a possible post-assembly structure fixation by UV polymerization of the droplet’s liquid.
Original languageEnglish
Issue number8
Early online date10 Sep 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2019


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