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This content will become publicly available on March 9, 2024

Title: Liquid Crystals as Multifunctional Interfaces for Trapping and Characterizing Colloidal Microplastics
Abstract

Identifying and removing microplastics (MPs) from the environment is a global challenge. This study explores how the colloidal fraction of MPs assemble into distinct 2D patterns at aqueous interfaces of liquid crystal (LC) films with the goal of developing surface‐sensitive methods for identifying MPs. Polyethylene (PE) and polystyrene (PS) microparticles are measured to exhibit distinct aggregation patterns, with addition of anionic surfactant amplifying differences in PS/PE aggregation patterns: PS changes from a linear chain‐like morphology to a singly dispersed state with increasing surfactant concentration whereas PE forms dense clusters at all surfactant concentrations. Statistical analysis of assembly patterns using deep learning image recognition models yields accurate classification, with feature importance analysis confirming that dense, multibranched assemblies are unique features of PE relative to PS. Microscopic characterization of LC ordering at the microparticle surfaces leads to predict LC‐mediated interactions (due to elastic strain) with a dipolar symmetry, a prediction consistent with the interfacial organization of PS but not PE. Further analysis leads to conclude that PE microparticles, due to their polycrystalline nature, possess rough surfaces that lead to weak LC elastic interactions and enhanced capillary forces. Overall, the results highlight the potential utility of LC interfaces for rapid identification of colloidal MPs based on their surface properties.

 
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Award ID(s):
2029327
NSF-PAR ID:
10400950
Author(s) / Creator(s):
 ;  ;  ;  ;  
Publisher / Repository:
Wiley Blackwell (John Wiley & Sons)
Date Published:
Journal Name:
Small
Volume:
19
Issue:
23
ISSN:
1613-6810
Format(s):
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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