Institute of Physics (IoP)
Colloidal particles are often used to make Pickering emulsions that are reported to be very stable. Commonly the stabilization is a combined effect of particle adsorbing at the fluid interface and a particle network in the continuous phase; the contribution of each to the overall stability is difficult to assess. We investigate the role of LAPONITE® particles on high internal phase emulsion stability by considering three different situations: emulsion stabilization by surfactant only, by surfactant plus clay particles, and finally clay particles only. To clarify the structure of the emulsion and the role of the clay particles, we have succeeded in fluorescently labelling the clay particles by adsorbing the dye onto the particle surfaces. This allows us to show directly using confocal microscopy, that the clay particles are not only located at the interface but also aggregate and form a gel in the continuous aqueous phase. We show that the emulsions in the presence of surfactant (with or without clay) are stable to coalescence and shear. Without surfactant (with only LAPONITE® as stabilizer) the emulsions are stable to coalescence for several weeks, however they destabilize rapidly under shear. Our results suggest that the formation of the emulsions is mostly due to gel formation of the clay particles in the continuous phase, rather than that the clay is an emulsifier. This gel formation also accounts for the instability of the emulsions to shear that we observe caused by shear thinning of the continuous gel and inability of the adsorbed particles to rearrange effectively around the droplets due to their attractive nature.