Mixed Nanosphere Assemblies at a Liquid–Liquid Interface

Zachary Fink, Xuefei Wu, Paul Y. Kim, Alex McGlasson, Maged Abdelsamie, Todd Emrick, Carolin M. Sutter-Fella, Paul D. Ashby, Brett A. Helms, Thomas P. Russell*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The in-plane packing of gold (Au), polystyrene (PS), and silica (SiO2) spherical nanoparticle (NP) mixtures at a water–oil interface is investigated in situ by UV–vis reflection spectroscopy. All NPs are functionalized with carboxylic acid such that they strongly interact with amine-functionalized ligands dissolved in an immiscible oil phase at the fluid interface. This interaction markedly increases the binding energy of these nanoparticle surfactants (NPSs). The separation distance between the Au NPSs and Au surface coverage are measured by the maximum plasmonic wavelength (λmax) and integrated intensities as the assemblies saturate for different concentrations of non-plasmonic (PS/SiO2) NPs. As the PS/SiO2 content increases, the time to reach intimate Au NP contact also increases, resulting from their hindered mobility. λmax changes within the first few minutes of adsorption due to weak attractive inter-NP forces. Additionally, a sharper peak in the reflection spectrum at NP saturation reveals tighter Au NP packing for assemblies with intermediate non-plasmonic NP content. Grazing incidence small angle X-ray scattering (GISAXS) and scanning electron microscopy (SEM) measurements confirm a decrease in Au NP domain size for mixtures with larger non-plasmonic NP content. The results demonstrate a simple means to probe interfacial phase separation behavior using in situ spectroscopy as interfacial structures densify into jammed, phase-separated NP films.

Original languageEnglish
StateAccepted/In press - 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 Wiley-VCH GmbH.


  • UV–vis reflection spectroscopy
  • liquid interface
  • nanoparticle adsorption
  • phase separation
  • plasmon resonance

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • General Chemistry
  • Biomaterials
  • General Materials Science
  • Engineering (miscellaneous)


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