Measurement of Aggregate Fractal Dimensions using Static Light Scattering
Aggregates formed from colloidal particles will vary in shape according to the aggregation regime prevalent. Compact structures are formed when the aggregation is slow, whilst loose tenuous structures are formed when rapid (or diffusion limited) aggregation prevails. These structures can be fractal in nature, that is, there is a relationship between porosity and the number of primary particles making up the aggregate, and is described by the fractal dimension, dF. Fractal dimensions of hematite aggregates have been measured experimentally using the static light scattering technique. Fractal dimensions varied with aggregation regimes; for the rapid aggregation regime, dF was found to be 2.8, whilst for conditions in which aggregation was slow (retardation forces prevail), dF's of 2.3 were measured. For conditions which lead to aggregation in which both diffusion and retardation forces play a part, structures with fractal dimensions such that 2.3 < dF < 2.8 were found. The effects of adsorbed fulvic acid, a naturally occuring organic acid, on the kinetics of hematite aggregation and on the resulting structure of hematite aggregates were also investigated. The study of aggregate structure shows that the fractal dimensions of hematite aggregates which are partially coated with fulvic acid molecules are higher than those obtained with no adsorbed fulvic acid. The scattering exponents obtained from static light scattering experiments of these aggregates range from 2.83 ± 0.08 to 3.42 ± 0.1. The scattering exponents of greater than 3 indicate that the scattering is the result of objects that contains pores which are bounded by surfaces with a fractal structure, and can be related only to surface fractal dimension. The high fractal dimensions are due to restructuring within the aggregates, which only occured at low coverage by the organic acid.