Ligand-Mediated Stabilization of Low Temperature Metal Eutectics and Their Use in Composite Systems
objective of this thesis is to contribute to the understanding of the behavior of the liquid metal eutectic gallium/indium (EGaIn) in composite systems and provide a platform for the development of functional hybrid nanocomposites. Contributions are regarding (i) the investigation of the electromechanical coupling performance of EGaIn as electrodes in a soft electrostatic transducer and (ii) the effectiveness of organic surfactants to stabilize EGaIn nanoparticles in organic solvents. For the first portion, a completely soft dielectric elastomer actuator (DEA) using EGaIn electrodes was fabricated and evaluated. Experimental actuation of the DEA showed high agreement with a generalized NeoHookean constitutive law, assuming uniaxial pre-stretch and considering the device saddle deformation. The expected conductive behavior of the liquid alloy was confirmed, and further efforts have focused on the development and stabilization of EGaIn nanodroplets, which do not exhibit the problems associated with larger pools of EGaIn (such as leakage) and can be applied to soft multifunctional materials. A computational procedure was developed for calculating suspended EGaIn nanoparticle mass in order to determine reaction yields using applied Mie theory and optical characterization techniques (dynamic light scattering and UV/Vis spectrophotometry). This method calculated total mass to within 20% when applied to a known system. A systematic study evaluating particle yield as a function of aliphatic surfactant composition and concentration (and solvent type) revealed a pronounced dependence of nanodroplet formation on the solvent type as well as surfactant structure. Ethanol (EtOH) was found to be the most effective solvent for the formation and stabilization of EGaIn nanodroplets, in which only thiol-based surfactants were found to improve nanodroplet yield. Results suggest a stabilization mechanism other than the expected self-assembled monolayer (SAM) formation. The research has been extended to alternative (e.g. plant based) surfactant systems.