Sticking power

Researchers at Warwick University are working on a range of applications for nanoparticles based on their ability to stick to non-mixing liquids.

The study, which has been published in Physical Review Letters, found that very small nanoparticles – typically around 1-2nm – are twice as likely to stick to the interface of two non-mixing liquids compared to the standard model.

Dr Stefan Bon and Dr David Cheung claim that previous research failed to take into account the capillary waves in conventional models for nanoparticle behaviour.

Bon said: ‘This new understanding on the nanoscale gives us much more flexibility in the design of everything from high-tech composite materials to the use of quantum dots, cell biochemistry and the manufacture of new “armoured” polymer paint particles.’

Funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), the project is currently focusing on ways to incorporate the newly found sticking power of nanoparticles to create strong bonds in oil-water liquid interfaces. The finding could also pave the way for the use of nanoparticles in polymer composites, high-tech foams, living cells, gels and paints.