7th Liquid-Matter Conference edition:1 location:Lund date:27 june - 1 july 2008
We perform a theoretical study of the three-phase contact line and the line tension in an adsorbed colloid-polymer mixture near a first-order wetting transition, employing an interface displacement model. We use a simple free-energy functional to describe a colloid-polymer mixture near a hard wall. The bulk phase behavior and the substrate-adsorbate interaction are modeled by the free-volume theory for ideal polymers. The large size of the colloidal particles and the suppression of the van der Waals interaction by optical matching of colloid and solvent justify the planar hard wall model for the substrate. Following the Fisher-Jin scheme, we derive from the free-energy functional an interface potential V(l) for these mixtures. For a particle diameter of 10-100 nm, the calculations indicate a line tension τ approximately 10**(-12) N – 10**(-13) N at room temperature. In view of the ultralow interfacial tension in colloid-polymer mixtures, γ approximately 10**(-7) N/m, this leads to a rather large characteristic length scale τ/γ in the micrometer range for the three-phase contact zone width. In contrast with molecular fluids, this zone could be studied directly with optical techniques such as confocal scanning laser microscopy.