Langmuir, Vol.28, No.27, 10256-10265, 2012
Effect of Molecular Weight on the Capillary Absorption of Polymer Droplets
We study capillary absorption of small polymer droplets into nonwettable capillaries using coarse-grained molecular dynamics simulations and a simple analytical model. Studies of droplets of simple fluids have revealed that the capillary process depends on the ratio of tube-to-droplet radii [Willmottet al. Faraday Discuss., 2010, 146, 233; Marmur J. Colloid Interface Sci. 1988, 122, 209]. Here we consider the absorption of droplets of polymers and study the effect of polymer chain length on the capillary absorption process. Our simulations reveal that for droplets of the same size (radius), the critical tube radius, below which there is no absorption, increases with the length of the polymer chains that constitute the droplets. We propose a model to explain this effect, which incorporates an entropic penalty for polymer confinement and find that this model agrees quantitatively with the simulations. We also find that the absorption dynamics is sensitive to the polymer chain length. In some cases during the capillary uptake transient partial absorption states, where the droplet is partially in and partially out of the tube, were observed. Such dynamics cannot be explained by a generalized Lucas-Washburn approach.