Observation of interaction forces by investigation of the influence of eluent additives on the retention behavior of aqueous nanoparticle dispersions in asymmetrical flow field-flow fractionation
The investigation and subsequent understanding of the interactions of nanomaterials with components of their surrounding media is important to be able to evaluate both potential use cases as well as potential risks for human health and for the environment. To investigate such interactions, asymmetrical flow field-flow fractionation (AF4) is an interesting analytical tool. This statement grounds on the fact that interactions of the analyte with the membrane and with components of the eluent are crucial for the retention behavior of the analyte within the field-flow fractionation (FFF) channel. Therefore, the investigation of the retention behavior provides an insight in the nature of the interactions between analyte, membrane and eluent. Within this publication, the influence of the composition of the eluent on the retention behavior of aqueous dispersions of two model analytes is investigated. Eluents with different types of salts and surfactants and eluents with different salt concentrations were prepared and the influence of the composition of these eluents on the retention behavior of polystyrene and polyorganosiloxane particles was compared. Three main trends were observed: Elution times increase with increasing electrolyte concentration; when comparing different electrolyte anions, the retention time increases the more kosmotropic the anion is; when comparing different electrolyte cations, the retention order depends on the surfactant. Additional dynamic light scattering (DLS) measurements were conducted to verify that the differences in retention times are not caused by actual differences in particle size. Instead, the differences in elution time can be correlated with the concentration and with the chao-/kosmotropicity of the added electrolyte ions. Therefore, AF4 proves to be sensitive to subtile changes of interaction forces on the level of Coulomb and van der Waals forces. The experimentally gathered elution times were used to develop a model describing the retention behavior, based on an enhanced version of the standard AF4 model: By introducing particle-medium-membrane interactions in the standard AF4 model via the respective Hamaker constants, the calculation of retention times was possible. The congruence of the calculated with the experimental retention times confirmed the validity of the simulation.