Electrostatics at the oil-water interface, stability, and order in emulsions and colloids

Mirjam E. Leunissen, Alfons Van Blaaderen, Andrew D. Hollingsworth, Matthew T. Sullivan, Paul M. Chaikin

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    Oil-water mixtures are ubiquitous in nature and are particularly important in biology and industry. Usually additives are used to prevent the liquid droplets from coalescing. Here, we show that stabilization can also be obtained from electrostatics, because of the well known remarkable properties of water. Preferential ion uptake leads to a tunable droplet charge and surprisingly stable, additive-free, water-in-oil emulsions that can crystallize. For particle-stabilized ("Pickering") emulsions we find that even extremely hydrophobic, nonwetting particles can be strongly bound to (like-charged) oil-water interfaces because of image charge effects. These basic insights are important for emulsion production, encapsulation, and (self-)assembly, as we demonstrate by fabricating a diversity of structures in bulk, on surfaces, and in confined geometries.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)2585-2590
    Number of pages6
    JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
    Issue number8
    StatePublished - Feb 20 2007


    • Colloidosomes
    • Low polar
    • Pickering
    • Wigner crystal self-assembly

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • General


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