Condensation and dissolution of nematic droplets in dispersions of colloidal rods with thermo–sensitive depletants

Abstract

Nematic droplets are droplets composed of elongated molecules that tend to point in the same direction but do not have any positional order. Such droplets are well known to adopt a spindle shape called tactoid. How such droplets condensate or melt and how the orientational symmetry is broken remains however unclear. Here we use a colloidal system composed of filamentous viruses as model rod-like colloids and pnipam microgel particles to induce thermo-sensitive depletion attraction between the rods. Microscopy experiments coupled to particle tracking reveal that the condensation of a nematic droplet is preceded by the formation of a new phase, an isotropic droplet. As the viruses constitute an excellent experimental realization of hard rods, it follows that the phenomenology we describe should be relevant to diverse micro- and nano-sized rods that interact through excluded volume interactions. This transition between isotropic and nematic droplets provides a new and reversible pathway to break the symmetry and order colloidal rods within a droplet with an external stimulus, and could constitute a benchmark experiment for a variety of technologies relying on reconfigurable control of rods.

DOI: 10.1038/srep18432

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Cite this paper

@inproceedings{Modliska2015CondensationAD, title={Condensation and dissolution of nematic droplets in dispersions of colloidal rods with thermo–sensitive depletants}, author={Anna Modlińska and Ahmed M. Alsayed and Thomas Gibaud}, booktitle={Scientific reports}, year={2015} }