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A Versatile Method for the Distance-Dependent Structural Characterization of Interacting Soft Interfaces by Neutron Reflectometry

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Max Planck Institute of Colloids and Interfaces, 14476 Potsdam, Germany
Institut Laue-Langevin, 38000 Grenoble, France
Cite this: Langmuir 2018, 34, 3, 789–800
Publication Date (Web):October 17, 2017
Copyright © 2017 American Chemical Society

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    Interactions between soft interfaces govern the behavior of emulsions and foams and crucially influence the functions of biological entities like membranes. To understand the character of these interactions, detailed insight into the interfaces’ structural response in terms of molecular arrangements and conformations is often essential. This requires the realization of controlled interaction conditions and surface-sensitive techniques capable of resolving the structure of buried interfaces. Here, we present a new approach to determine the distance-dependent structure of interacting soft interfaces by neutron reflectometry. A solid/water interface and a water/oil interface are functionalized independently and initially macroscopically separated. They are then brought into contact and structurally characterized under interacting conditions. The nanometric distance between the two interfaces can be varied via the exertion of osmotic pressures. Our first experiments on lipid-anchored polymer brushes interacting across water with solid-grafted polyelectrolyte brushes and with bare silicon surfaces reveal qualitatively different interaction scenarios depending on the chemical composition of the two involved interfaces.

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    The Supporting Information is available free of charge on the ACS Publications website at DOI: 10.1021/acs.langmuir.7b02971.

    • Molecular structures, pressure–area isotherms, comparison with SCF theory, purely statistical parameter errors, and additional neutron reflectometry data (PDF)

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