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A Versatile Method for the Distance-Dependent Structural Characterization of Interacting Soft Interfaces by Neutron Reflectometry

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journal contribution
posted on 17.10.2017, 00:00 by Samantha Micciulla, Yuri Gerelli, Richard A. Campbell, Emanuel Schneck
Interactions between soft interfaces govern the behavior of emulsions and foams and crucially influence the functions of biological entities like membranes. To understand the character of these interactions, detailed insight into the interfaces’ structural response in terms of molecular arrangements and conformations is often essential. This requires the realization of controlled interaction conditions and surface-sensitive techniques capable of resolving the structure of buried interfaces. Here, we present a new approach to determine the distance-dependent structure of interacting soft interfaces by neutron reflectometry. A solid/water interface and a water/oil interface are functionalized independently and initially macroscopically separated. They are then brought into contact and structurally characterized under interacting conditions. The nanometric distance between the two interfaces can be varied via the exertion of osmotic pressures. Our first experiments on lipid-anchored polymer brushes interacting across water with solid-grafted polyelectrolyte brushes and with bare silicon surfaces reveal qualitatively different interaction scenarios depending on the chemical composition of the two involved interfaces.