Suppression of Ostwald ripening in active emulsions. Academic Article uri icon


  • Emulsions consisting of droplets immersed in a fluid are typically unstable since they coarsen over time. One important coarsening process is Ostwald ripening, which is driven by the surface tension of the droplets. Stability of emulsions is relevant not only in complex fluids but also in biological cells, which contain liquidlike compartments, e.g., germ granules, Cajal bodies, and centrosomes. Such cellular systems are driven away from equilibrium, e.g., by chemical reactions, and thus can be called active emulsions. In this paper, we study such active emulsions by developing a coarse-grained description of the droplet dynamics, which we analyze for two different chemical reaction schemes. We first consider the simple case of first-order reactions, which leads to stable, monodisperse emulsions in which Ostwald ripening is suppressed within a range of chemical reaction rates. We then consider autocatalytic droplets, which catalyze the production of their own droplet material. Spontaneous nucleation of autocatalytic droplets is strongly suppressed and their emulsions are typically unstable. We show that autocatalytic droplets can be nucleated reliably and their emulsions stabilized by the help of chemically active cores, which catalyze the production of droplet material. In summary, different reaction schemes and catalytic cores can be used to stabilize emulsions and to control their properties.

publication date

  • July 2015