Electrosteric Stabilization and Its Role in Cooperative Magnetophoresis of Colloidal Magnetic Nanoparticles
A detailed study on the conflicting role that colloid stability plays in magnetophoresis is presented. Magnetic iron oxide particles (MIOPs) that were sterically stabilized via surface modification with poly(sodium 4-styrene sulfonate) of different molecular weights (i.e., 70 and 1000 kDa) were employed as our model system. Both sedimentation kinetics and quartz crystal microbalance with dissipation (QCM-D) measurements suggested that PSS 70 kDa is a better stabilizer as compared to PSS 1000 kDa. This observation is mostly attributed to the bridging flocculation of PSS 1000 kDa decorated MIOPs originated from the extended polymeric conformation layer. Later, a lab-scale high gradient magnetic separation (HGMS) device was designed to study the magnetophoretic collection of MIOPs. Our experimental results revealed that the more colloidally stable the MIOP suspension is, the harder it is to be magnetically isolated by HGMS. At 50 mg/L, naked MIOPs without coating can be easily captured by HGMS at separation efficiency up to 96.9 ± 2.6%. However, the degree of separation dropped quite drastically to 83.1 ± 1.2% and 67.7 ± 4.6%, for MIOPs with PSS 1000k and PSS 70k coating, respectively. This observation clearly implies that polyelectrolyte coating that was usually employed to electrosterically stabilize a colloidal system in turn compromises the magnetic isolation efficiency. By artificially destroying the colloidal stability of the MIOPs with ionic strength increment, the ability for HGMS to recover the most stable suspension (i.e., PSS 70k-coated MIOPs) increased to >86% at 100 mM monovalent ion (Na+) or at 10 mM divalent ion (Ca2+). This observation has verified the conflicting role of colloidal stability in magnetophoretic separation.