On the curvature dependence of the interfacial tension in a symmetric three-component interface

F.A.M. Leermakers, J.H.B. Sprakel, N.A.M. Besseling, P.A. Barneveld

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    We consider a symmetric interface between two polymers A(N) and B(N) in a common monomeric solvent S using the mean-field Scheutjens-Fleer self-consistent field theory and focus on the curvature dependence of the interfacial tension. In multi-component systems there is not one unique scenario to curve such an interface. We elaborate on this by keeping either the chemical potential of the solvent or the bulk concentration of the solvent fixed, that is we focus on the semi-grand canonical ensemble case. Following Helfrich, we expand the surface tension as a Taylor series in the curvature parameters and find that there is a non-zero linear dependence of the interfacial tension on the mean curvature in both cases. This implies a finite Tolman length. In a thermodynamic analysis we prove that the non-zero Tolman length is related to the adsorption of solvent at the interface. Similar, but not the same, correlations between the solvent adsorption and the Tolman length are found in the two scenarios. This result indicates that one should be careful with symmetry arguments in a Helfrich analysis, in particular for systems that have a finite interfacial tension: one not only should consider the structural symmetry of the interface, but also consider the constraints that are enforced upon imposing the curvature. The volume fraction of solvent, the chain length N as well as the interaction parameter chi(AB) in the system can be used to take the system in the direction of the critical point. The usual critical behavior is found. Both the width of the interface and the Tolman length diverge, whereas the density difference between the two phases, adsorbed amount of solvent at the interface, interfacial tension, spontaneous curvature, mean bending modulus as well as the Gaussian bending modulus vanish upon approach of the critical point.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)167-179
    JournalPhysical Chemistry Chemical Physics
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 2007


    • interacting chain molecules
    • statistical-theory
    • tolman length
    • adsorption
    • rigidity
    • models


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