P Dhar, V Prasad, ER Weeks, T Bohlein, & TM Fischer, J. Phys. Chem. B (ASAP article, 2008)

Electrostatic interactions strongly affect the immersion depth of nanoparticles into an interface. We prove this statement by measuring the diffusion constant of charged nanoparticles at a sodium chloride solution/air interface. Interfacial diffusion of nanoparticles slows down with increasing ionic strength of the sodium chloride solution. Hydrodynamic calculations are used to estimate the immersion depth from the diffusion constant, suggesting that nanoparticles with a carboxylate surface are only slightly immersed into a bare air/water interface. With increasing molarities of sodium chloride, the immersion depth increases to complete immersion for a 10−2 molar solution. Our experiments show that the location of nanoparticles at interfaces is determined by an intricate interplay between the electrostatic properties of the solution/air interface, the solution/solid interface, and the classical contact angle.