3 August 2020
The minimization of surface area, as a result of the minimization of (positive) surface energy, is a well-known driving force behind the spontaneous broadening of (nano) particle size distribution. We show that surfactant molecules binding to particle surfaces effectively decrease the surface energy and may change its sign. In this case, contrary to the expected broadening behavior, a minimum of free energy is achieved at the maximum surface area for all particles, i.e., when the particles are identical. Numerical simulations based on the classical Lifshitz–Slyozov–Wagner theory with surfactant-induced surface energy renormalization confirm the collapse of the particle size distribution. As the particle size evolution is much slower than particle nucleation and growth, the manipulation of surface energy with in-situ replacement of surfactant molecules provides a method for controlling particle size distribution with great potential for creating mono-disperse nanoparticles, a key goal of nanotechnology.
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