EU Science Hub

The influence of inter-particle forces on diffusion at the nanoscale


Van der Waals and electrostatic interactions are the dominant forces acting at the nanoscale and they have been reported to directly influence a range of phenomena including surface adhesion, friction, and colloid stability but their contribution on nanoparticle diffusion dynamics is still not clear. In this study we evaluated experimentally the changes in the diffusion coefficient of nanoparticles as a result of varying the magnitude of Van der Waals and electrostatic forces. We controlled the magnitude of these forces by varying the ionic strength of a salt solution, which has been shown to be a parameter that directly controls the forces, and found by tracking single nanoparticles dispersed in solutions with different salt molarity that the diffusion of nanoparticles increases with the magnitude of the electrostatic forces and Van der Waals forces. Our results demonstrate that these two concurrently dynamic forces play a pivotal role in driving the diffusion process and must be taken into account when considering nanoparticle behaviour.