Crystallization and gelation in colloidal systems with short-ranged attractive interactions.

Abstract

We systematically study the relationship between equilibrium and nonequilibrium phase diagrams of a system of short-ranged attractive colloids. Using Monte Carlo and Brownian dynamics simulations we find a window of enhanced crystallization that is limited at high interaction strength by a slowing down of the dynamics and at low interaction strength by the high nucleation barrier. We find that the crystallization is enhanced by the metastable gas-liquid binodal by means of a two-stage crystallization process. First, the formation of a dense liquid is observed and second the crystal nucleates within the dense fluid. In addition, we find at low colloid packing fractions a fluid of clusters, and at higher colloid packing fractions a percolating network due to an arrested gas-liquid phase separation that we identify with gelation. We find that this arrest is due to crystallization at low interaction energy and it is caused by a slowing down of the dynamics at high interaction strength. Likewise, we observe that the clusters which are formed at low colloid packing fractions are crystalline at low interaction energy, but glassy at high interaction energy. The clusters coalesce upon encounter.

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Cite this paper

@article{Fortini2008CrystallizationAG, title={Crystallization and gelation in colloidal systems with short-ranged attractive interactions.}, author={Andrea Fortini and Eduardo Sanz and Marjolein Dijkstra}, journal={Physical review. E, Statistical, nonlinear, and soft matter physics}, year={2008}, volume={78 4 Pt 1}, pages={041402} }