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Synergistic Role of Temperature and Salinity in Aggregation of Nonionic Surfactant-Coated Silica Nanoparticles

by Gergely Nagy, William T Heller
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5917 to 5928

The adsorption of nonionic surfactants onto hydrophilic nanoparticles (NPs) is anticipated to increase their stability in aqueous medium. While nonionic surfactants show salinity- and temperature-dependent bulk phase behavior in water, the effects of these two solvent parameters on surfactant adsorption and self-assembly onto NPs are poorly understood. In this study, we combine adsorption isotherms, dispersion transmittance, and small-angle neutron scattering (SANS) to investigate the effects of salinity and temperature on the adsorption of pentaethylene glycol monododecyl ether (C12E5) surfactant on silica NPs. We find an increase in the amount of surfactant adsorbed onto the NPs with increasing temperature and salinity. Based on SANS measurements and corresponding analysis using computational reverse-engineering analysis of scattering experiments (CREASE), we show that the increase in salinity and temperature results in the aggregation of silica NPs. We further demonstrate the non-monotonic changes in viscosity for the C12E5–silica NP mixture with increasing temperature and salinity and correlate the observations to the aggregated state of NPs. The study provides a fundamental understanding of the configuration and phase transition of the surfactant-coated NPs and presents a strategy to manipulate the viscosity of such dispersion using temperature as a stimulus.