Diffusion NMR Spectroscopy for the Characterization of the Size and Interactions of Colloidal Matter:  The Case of Vesicles and Nanoparticles

We report the application of the pulse gradient spin−echo (PGSE) NMR technique (PGSE NMR) to the analysis of large colloidal materials, specifically vesicles formed from macromolecular amphiphiles and nanoparticles. Measurements of size and size distribution were demonstrated to be comparable to those obtained through dynamic light scattering or hydrodynamic chromatography. In comparison to these more common analytical methods, the use of PGSE NMR is particularly advantageous in that, as a spectroscopic technique, it adds chemical selectivity to the study of physical dimensions. In this way, chemically different species contemporarily present in a sample may be individually studied. In addition, we demonstrate the use of PGSE NMR to probe the existence of equilibria between macroamphiphiles present in solution and those present in vesicles or on the surface of nanoparticles. This feature in particular opens exciting possibilities for the characterization of the phase behavior and of the surface adsorption phenomena of colloids.