Dynamic Light Scattering on Nanoparticles in Microgravity in a Drop Tower

Gravity affects colloidal dispersions via sedimentation and convection. We used dynamic light scattering (DLS) to quantify the mobility of nanoparticles on ground and in microgravity. A DLS instrument was adapted to withstand the accelerations in a drop tower, and a liquid handling set-up was connected in order to stabilize the liquid temperature and enable rapid cooling or heating. Light scattering experiments were performed in the drop tower at ZARM (Bremen, Germany) during a microgravity interval of 9.1 s and compared to measurements on ground. Particle dynamics were analyzed at constant temperature and after a rapid temperature drop using a series of DLS measurements with 1 s integration time. We observed nanoparticles with average gold core diameters of 7.8 nm and non-polar oleylamine shells that were dispersed in tetradecane and had an average hydrodynamic diameter of 21 nm. The particles did not change their diameter in the observed temperature range. The particle dynamics inferred from DLS on ground and in microgravity were in good agreement, demonstrating the possibility to perform reliable DLS measurements in a drop tower.