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Viscosity Effect on the Structural Compactness of Latex Flocs Formed under Weak Depletion Attractions

Journal of Colloid and Interface Science
Publication Date
DOI: 10.1006/jcis.2002.8636


Abstract Dilute aqueous dispersions of colloidal polystyrene latex spheres were flocculated by adding a nonadsorbing polymer sample, poly(acrylic acid). The structural compactness of the flocs thus formed was characterized in terms of their mass fractal dimension using the small-angle static light scattering technique. It was found that with low poly(acrylic acid) concentrations and thus weak depletion attraction forces, the dispersion medium viscosity had a marked effect on the floc structure. An increase in the viscosity led to formation of denser flocs. This was revealed in three sets of depletion flocculation experiments: (a) adjusting the background electrolyte concentration at a fixed level of poly(acrylic acid), (b) using water and 30% (w/w) glycerol as the respective solvents, and (c) inducing latex flocculation with two poly(acrylic acids) of different molecular weights at the respective critical polyacid concentrations. Direct force measurements were made with atomic force microscopy to isolate the influence of viscosity on floc structure from that of interparticle interaction energies. We conclude that the formation of denser flocs with increasing medium viscosity can be attributed to the reduced diffusivity of particles in the solution. The latter resulted in an enhanced rate of floc restructuring (through relaxation of attached particles) relative to floc growth.

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