Interfacial behavior of cubic liquid crystalline nanoparticles at hydrophilic and hydrophobic surfaces
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The adsorption behavior of self-assembled lipid liquid crystalline nanoparticles at different model surfaces was investigated in situ by use of ellipsometry. The technique allows time-resolved monitoring of the adsorbed amount and layer thickness under transient and steady-state conditions. The system under study was cubic-phase nanoparticle (CPNP) dispersions of glycerol monooleate stabilized by a nonionic block copolymer, Pluronic F-127. Depending on the surface properties and presence of electrolytes, different adsorption scenarios were discerned: At hydrophilic silica thick surface layers of CPNPs are generated by particle adsorption from dispersions containing added electrolyte, but no adsorption is observed in pure water. Adsorption at the hydrophobic surface involves extensive structural relaxation and formation, which is not electrolyte sensitive, of a classic monolayer structure. The different observations are rationalized in terms of differences in interactions among the CPNP aggregates, their unimer constituents, and the surface and show a strong influence of interfacial interactions on structure formation. Surface self-assembly structures with properties similar to those of the corresponding bulk aggregates appear exclusively in the weak interaction limit. This observation is in agreement with observations for surfactant self-assembly systems, and our findings indicate that this behavior is applicable also to complex self-assembly structures such as the CPNP structures discussed herein.