Molecular dynamics studies of aqueous silica nanoparticle dispersions: salt effects on the double layer formation

LS de Lara and VA Rigo and MF Michelon and CO Metin and QP Nguyen and CR Miranda, JOURNAL OF PHYSICS-CONDENSED MATTER, 27, 325101 (2015).

DOI: 10.1088/0953-8984/27/32/325101

The ion distribution around hydroxylated silica nanoparticles (NP-H) dispersed in brine was investigated by fully atomistic molecular dynamics. The NP-H dispersions in aqueous electrolyte media are simulated in solutions of varying salinity (NaCl, CaCl2, and MgCl2), salt concentration (0.06 x 10(-3) to 3.00 x 10(-3) mole fraction chi(s)), and temperature (300 and 350 K) at 1 atm. The NP-H models reproduce the observed experimental concentration of silanol and geminal surface sites, which are responsible for local charge variations on the nanoparticles' surface. Interestingly, under certain salt concentration conditions, the formation of an electrical double layer (DL) around the overall neutral NP-H occurs. The resulting DLs are attenuated with increasing temperature for all evaluated salts. With increasing salt concentration, a sign inversion of the effective charge at the first ion layer is observed, which modifies the electrostatic environment around the nanoparticle. The minimum salt concentration that leads to a DL formation at 300 K is 1.05 x 10(-3), 0.37 x 10(-3), and 0.06 x 10(-3) chi(s) for NaCl, CaCl2, and MgCl2, respectively. The width of the DL decreases sequentially in ionic strength from NaCl to CaCl2 to MgCl2, which is similar to that found for highly charged surfaces. These results are in line with our previous experimental data for negative charged NP-H. All together, these observations suggest an interplay mechanism between the formation and narrowing of electric double layers on the stability of NP dispersions in both neutral and negatively charged NP-H.

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