Critical Casimir interactions and colloidal self-assembly in near-critical solvents

Nikos Tasios, John Edison, Rene van Roij, Robert Evans, Marjolein Dijkstra

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)

Abstract

A binary solvent mixture close to critical demixing experiences fluctuations whose correlation length, xsi, diverges as the critical point is approached. The solvent-mediated (SM) interaction that arises between a pair of colloids immersed in such a near-critical solvent can be long-ranged and this so-called critical Casimir interaction is well-studied. How a (dense) suspension of colloids will self-assemble under these conditions is poorly understood. Using a two-dimensional lattice model for the solvent and hard disks to represent the colloids, we perform extensive Monte Carlo simulations to investigate the phase behaviour of this model colloidal suspension as a function of colloid size and wettability under conditions where the solvent reservoir is supercritical. Unlike most other approaches, where the solvent is modelled as an implicit background, our model employs an explicit solvent and treats the suspension as a ternary mixture. This enables us to capture important features, including the pronounced fractionation of the solvent in the coexisting colloidal phases, of this complex system. We also present results for the partial structure factors; these shed light on the critical behaviour in the ternary mixture. The degree to which an effective two-body pair potential description can describe the phase behaviour and structure of the colloidal suspension is discussed briefly.
Original languageEnglish
Article number084902
JournalJournal of Chemical Physics
Volume145
Publication statusPublished - 22 Aug 2016

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