Author(s) Jacob, A.Ranjit; Parekh, D.; Dickey, M.D.; Hsiao, L.
Journal Langmuir
Date Published 2019 Aug 13

Gallium and its alloys react with oxygen to form a native oxide that encapsulates the liquid metal with a solid 'skin'. The viscoelasticity of this skin is leveraged in applications such as soft electronics, 3D printing and components for microfluidic devices. In these applications, rheological characterization of the oxide skin is paramount for understanding and controlling liquid metals. Here, we provide a direct comparison of the viscoelastic properties for gallium-based liquid metals and illustrate the effect of different subphases and addition of a dopant on the elastic nature of the oxide skin. The Du Noüy ring method is used to investigate the interfacial rheology of oxide skins formed by gallium-based liquid metal alloys. The results show that the oxide layer on gallium, eutectic gallium-indium, and galinstan are viscoelastic with a yield stress. Furthermore, the storage modulus of the oxide layer is affected by exposure to water or when small amounts of aluminum dopant are added to the liquid metals. The former scenario decreases the interfacial storage modulus of the gallium by 35-85% while the latter increases the interfacial storage modulus by 25-45%. The presence of water also changes the chemical composition of the oxide skin. Scanning electron microscopy, energy-dispersive X-ray spectroscopy (EDS), and X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS) suggest that a microstructural evolution of the interface occurs when aluminum preferentially migrates from the bulk to the surface. These studies provide guidance on selecting liquid metals as well as simple methods to optimize their rheological behavior for future applications.

DOI 10.1021/acs.langmuir.9b01821
ISSN 1520-5827
Citation Langmuir. 2019.