Monday, April 22, 2013

The transition from liquid to solid-like behaviour in ultrahigh viscosity aerosol particles

R. M. Power, S. H. Simpson, J. P. Reid and A. J. Hudson
For the first time, a measurement of the viscosity of microparticles composed of Newtonian fluids has been made over a range of 12 orders of magnitude (10−3 to 109 Pa s), extending from dilute aqueous solutions to the solid-like behaviour expected on approaching a glass transition. Using holographic optical tweezers to induce coalescence between two aerosol particles (volume <500 femtolitres), we observe the composite particle relax to a sphere over a timescale from 10−7 to 105 s, dependent on viscosity. The damped oscillations in shape illustrate the interplay of surface capillary forces and bulk fluid flow as the relaxation progresses. Viscosity values estimated from the extrapolation of measurements from macroscopic binary aqueous solutions of sucrose are shown to diverge from the microparticle measurements by as much as five orders of magnitude in the limit of ultrahigh solute supersaturation and viscosity. This is shown to be a consequence of the sensitivity of the viscosity to the composition of the particles, specifically the water content, and the often incorrect compositional dependence on water activity that are assumed to characterise aerosols and amorphous phases under dry conditions. For ternary mixtures of sodium chloride, sucrose and water, the measured viscosities similarly diverge from model predictions by up to three orders of magnitude. The Stokes–Einstein treatment for relating the diffusivity of water in sucrose droplets to the particle viscosity is found to depart from the measured viscosities by more than one order of magnitude when the viscosity exceeds 10 Pa s and up to six orders of magnitude at the highest viscosities accessed. Coalescence is shown to proceed with unit efficiency even up to the highest accessible viscosity. These measurements provide the first comprehensive account of the change in a material property accompanying a transition from a dilute solution to an amorphous semi-solid state using aerosol particles to probe the change in rheological properties.

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