Combined Passive and Active Microrheology Study of Protein-Layer Formation at an Air−Water Interface
We investigate the mechanical properties of layers of the protein ?-lactoglobulin during their formation at the air?water interface using a combination of passive and active microrheological techniques. The passive microrheology, which employs multiple particle tracking measurements using spherical colloids, indicates that the interfacial rheology evolves over time through three stages as protein adsorbs at the interface: (i) an increase in viscosity, (ii) a period of spatial heterogeneity in which the interface contains elastic and viscous regions, and (iii) the development of a uniformly rigid elastic film. Varying solution pH between pH = 5.2, the isoelectric point of ?-lactoglobulin, and pH = 7.0 has no qualitative effect on this mechanical evolution. The active microrheology, which employs ferromagnetic nanowires rotating in response to magnetic torques, similarly shows an increasing interfacial viscosity at early times and evidence of mechanical heterogeneity at intermediate times. However, at late times, the nanowire mobility becomes strongly pH dependent. For pH = 5.2, the layer responds as a rigid elastic film to the stress imposed by the wire. For pH = 7.0, it displays a viscous response that contrasts with the passive measurements. We associate this contrast with a nonlinear response to the wire at late times that reflects a low yield stress of the film at higher pH. This ability to compare passive and active measurements demonstrates the advantage of applying multiple microrheological methods to resolve ambiguity in any single approach.