Small-angle static light scattering of concentrated silica suspensions during in situ destabilization

H.M. Wyss, J. Innerlohinger, L.P. Meier, L.J. Gauckler, O. Glatter

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24 Citations (Scopus)


The aggregation of concentrated aqueous silica suspensions is characterized by means of static light scattering. We use an in situ destabilization mechanism based on the enzyme-catalyzed hydrolysis of urea. This method enables us to continuously and homogeneously change the interparticle potential from repulsive to attractive without disturbing the aggregation process. Moreover, our electrostatically stabilized suspensions can be destabilized by two different methods. In the first method, the pH is shifted toward the isoelectric point of the particles (ΔpH method), thereby leading to a decrease of their surface charge. In the second method, the ionic strength is continuously increased at constant pH (ΔI method), leading to a compression of the electrical double layer around the charged particles. A laboratory-built flat-cell light-scattering instrument is used, which allows fast data acquisition and an adjustment of the sample cell thickness. To circumvent multiple scattering effects, we use a very small sample thickness (≈13 μm). In addition, the refractive index difference between the aqueous phase and the particles is reduced by adding sucrose to the liquid phase of our suspensions. We are able to characterize the structural changes at the very early stages of the destabilization process, where no significant effects are yet detected in macroscopic rheological measurements. While during the ΔpH destabilization, the scattering curve shows significant changes only after some characteristic delay time, it changes continuously during the ΔI destabilization. The latter is attributed to the formation of a weak pre-gel structure in the suspensions, as a shallow secondary minimum appears in the interparticle potential. Data are evaluated by using a HMSA square-well structure factor model. Results are in good agreement with those predicted from DLVO theory.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)388-399
JournalJournal of Colloid and Interface Science
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2004
Externally publishedYes


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