Phase behavior and 3D structure of strongly attractive microsphere- nanoparticle mixtures

James F. Gilchrist, Angel T. Chan, Eric R. Weeks, Jennifer A. Lewis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We investigate the phase behavior and 3D structure of strongly attractive mixtures of silica microspheres and polystyrene nanoparticles. These binary mixtures are electrostatically tuned to promote a repulsion between like-charged (microsphere-microsphere and nanoparticle-nanoparticle) species and a strong attraction between oppositely charged (microsphere-nanoparticle) species. Using confocal fluorescence scanning microscopy, we directly observe the 3D structure of colloidal phases assembled from these mixtures as a function of varying composition. In the absence of nanoparticle additions, the charged-stabilized microspheres assemble into a polycrystalline array upon sedimentation. With increasing nanoparticle volume fraction, nanoparticle bridges form between microspheres, inducing their flocculation. At even higher nanoparticle volume fractions, the microspheres become well coated with nanoparticles, leading to their charge reversal and subsequent restabilization. We demonstrate how this fluid-gel-fluid transition can be utilized to control the morphology of the colloidal phases formed under gravity-driven sedimentation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)11040-11047
Number of pages8
Issue number24
StatePublished - Nov 22 2005

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Materials Science(all)
  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Surfaces and Interfaces
  • Spectroscopy
  • Electrochemistry


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