Droplet Formation by Chemically Fueled Self-Assembly: The Role of Precursor Hydrophobicity

We investigate active droplets that form at the expense of a chemical fuel in aqueous buffer and vanish autonomously. Dynamic light scattering reveals the scattered intensity, the hydrodynamic radius, and the width of the size distribution with high precision as well as high temporal and spatial resolutions. Comparing the resulting time-dependent behavior of the droplet characteristics with the time-dependent concentration of the anhydrides, the roles of the chemical reaction cycle and of colloidal growth processes are elucidated. The droplet sizes and lifetimes depend strongly on the hydrophobicity of the precursor, and the growth rate is found to correlate with the deactivation rate of the product.