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Understanding Nanoemulsion Formation and Developing a Procedure for Porous Material Growth using Assembled Nanoemulsions

  • Author(s): Yeranossian, Vahagn
  • Advisor(s): Helgeson, Matt E
  • et al.
Abstract

Nanoemulsions as an emerging technology have found many applications in consumer products, drug delivery, and even particle formation. However, knowledge gaps exist in how some of these emulsions are formed, specifically what pathways are traversed to reach the final state. Moreover, how these pathways affect the final properties of the nanoemulsions would affect the applications that these droplets possess. Some nanoemulsions possess unique properties, including the assembly of droplets. While the assembly of droplets is being studied in the Helgeson lab, work must be done to understand how the assembly itself could be used to control the growth of porous materials, such a hydrogels. Thus, this thesis aims to address two factors of nanoemulsions: the formation of water-in-oil nanoemulsions and the use of assemblying droplets in oil-in-water nanoemulsions to form macroporous hydrogels.

To elucidate the formation mechanism of water-in-oil nanoemulsions, a combination of dynamic light scattering and small angle neutron scattering were used to study the intermediate and final states of the nanoemulsion during its formation. These nanoemulsions were prepared by slowly adding water to an oil and surfactant mixture and were diluted to effectively measure using scattering techniques without multiple scattering events. To develop a procedure to use assembled nanoemulsions for the growth of porous materials, a combination of optical microscopy and diffusional studies were employed. Optical microscopy images taken at various stages of the procedure help elucidate how the pore sizes of the final porous material is related to the droplet-rich domains of the assembled nanoemulsion. Meanwhile, diffusional measurements help confirm the size and interconnectedness of the macropores.

From the work done in the completion of my thesis, the formation mechanism of the water-in-oil nanoemulsion studied has been elucidated. The neutron scattering measurements show that during the formation of the nanoemulsion, a combination of droplets and vesicles form. The presence of vesicles provides insight into how chemical additives in the water would affect the final droplet properties. This insight can be used to design water-in-oil nanoemulsions to be used for the controlled synthesis of solid nanoparticles. Additionally, this work demonstrates a potential procedure for developing macroporous hydrogels using nanoemulsions that are assembled into droplet-rich and droplet-poor domains. Through mild UV cross-linking conditions and mild solvent extraction techniques, the pore sizes could be equivalent to the droplet-rich domain sizes. The final hydrogels can control diffusivity of molecules, giving them potential applications in drug delivery.

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