Capillary multipoles, shape anisotropy, and flocculation in 2D: the case of anisotropic colloids at fluid interfaces

5 June 2014
The synthesis of complex-shaped colloids and nanoparticles has recently undergone unprecedented advancements. It is now possible to manufacture particles shaped as dumbbells, cubes, stars, triangles, and cylinders, with exquisite control over the particle shape. How can particle geometry be exploited in the context of capillarity and surface-tension phenomena? This talk examines this question by exploring the case of complex-shaped particles adsorbed at the interface between two immiscible fluids, in the small Bond number limit in which gravity is not important. In this limit, the "Cheerio's effect" is unimportant, but interface deformations do emerge. This drives configuration dependent capillary forces that can be exploited in a variety of contexts, from emulsion stabilisation to the manufacturing of new materials. It is an opportunity for the mathematics community to get involved in this field, which offers ample opportunities for careful mathematical analysis. For instance, we find that the mathematical toolbox provided by 2D potential theory lead to remarkably good predictions of the forces and torques measured experimentally by tracking particle pairs of cylinders and ellipsoids. New research directions will also be mentioned during the talk, including elasto-capillary interactions and the simulation of multiphase composites.
  • Industrial and Applied Mathematics Seminar