Research Paper

Journal of Nanoparticle Research

, 14:1246

First online:

Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.

Adsorption of surface functionalized silica nanoparticles onto mineral surfaces and decane/water interface

  • Cigdem O. MetinAffiliated withDepartment of Petroleum and Geosystems Engineering, The University of Texas at Austin
  • , Jimmie R. BaranJr.Affiliated with3M Corporate Research Materials Laboratory, 3M Center
  • , Quoc P. NguyenAffiliated withDepartment of Petroleum and Geosystems Engineering, The University of Texas at Austin Email author 


The adsorption of silica nanoparticles onto representative mineral surfaces and at the decane/water interface was studied. The effects of particle size (the mean diameters from 5 to 75 nm), concentration and surface type on the adsorption were studied in detail. Silica nanoparticles with four different surfaces [unmodified, surface modified with anionic (sulfonate), cationic (quaternary ammonium (quat)) or nonionic (polyethylene glycol (PEG)) surfactant] were used. The zeta potential of these silica nanoparticles ranges from −79.8 to 15.3 mV. The shape of silica particles examined by a Hitachi-S5500 scanning transmission electron microscope (STEM) is quite spherical. The adsorption of all the nanoparticles (unmodified or surface modified) on quartz and calcite surfaces was found to be insignificant. We used interfacial tension (IFT) measurements to investigate the adsorption of silica nanoparticles at the decane/water interface. Unmodified nanoparticles or surface modified ones with sulfonate or quat do not significantly affect the IFT of the decane/water interface. It also does not appear that the particle size or concentration influences the IFT. However, the presence of PEG as a surface modifying material significantly reduces the IFT. The PEG surface modifier alone in an aqueous solution, without the nanoparticles, yields the same IFT reduction for an equivalent PEG concentration as that used for modifying the surface of nanoparticles. Contact angle measurements of a decane droplet on quartz or calcite plate immersed in water (or aqueous nanoparticle dispersion) showed a slight change in the contact angle in the presence of the studied nanoparticles. The results of contact angle measurements are in good agreement with experiments of adsorption of nanoparticles on mineral surfaces or decane/water interface. This study brings new insights into the understanding and modeling of the adsorption of surface-modified silica nanoparticles onto mineral surfaces and water/decane interface.


Silica nanoparticles Surface-modified silica nanoparticles Contact angle Adsorption of nanoparticles Interfacial tension