Coffee-Rings and Glasses: Colloids Out of Equilibrium
Condensed Matter Physics
This thesis describes experiments that utilize colloids to explore nonequilibrium phenomena. Specifically, the deposition of particles during evaporation and the glass transition are explored. In the first set of experiments, we found that particle shape has a profound effect on particle deposition. We evaporated drops of colloidal suspensions containing micron-sized particles that range in shape from isotropic spheres to very anisotropic ellipsoids. For sessile drops, i.e., drops sitting on a solid surface, spheres are deposited in a ring-like stain, while ellipsoids are deposited uniformly. We also confined drops between glass plates and allowed them to evaporate. During evaporation, colloidal particles coat the air-water interface, forming colloidal monolayer membranes (CMMs). As particle anisotropy increases, CMM bending rigidity was found to increase. This increase in bending rigidity provides a new mechanism that produces a uniform deposition of ellipsoids and a heterogeneous deposition of spheres. In the second set of experiments, we employed colloidal suspensions to investigate the character of glassy materials.
Anisotropic glasses'' were investigated with ellipsoidal particles confined to two-dimensional chambers at high packing fractions; this system enabled the study of the effects of particle shape on the vibrational properties of colloidal glasses. Low frequency modes in glasses composed of slightly anisotropic particles are found to have predominantly rotational character. Conversely, low frequency modes in glasses of highly anisotropic particles exhibit a mix of rotational and translational character. Aging effects in glasses were explored using suspensions of temperature-sensitive microgel spheres. We devised a method to rapidly quench from liquid to glass states, and then observed the resultant colloidal glasses as they aged. Particle rearrangements in glasses occur collectively, i.e., many particles move in a correlated manner. During aging, we observed that the size of these collective rearrangements increases. Thus, the slowing dynamics of aging appear governed by growing correlated domains of particles required for relaxation. Using the same microgel particles, the transformation of a crystal into a glass due to added disorder was investigated by adding smaller particles into a quasi-two-dimensional colloidal crystal. The crystal-glass transition bears structural signatures similar to those of the crystal-fluid transition, but also exhibits a sharp change in dynamic heterogeneity which turns-on'' abruptly as a function of increasing disorder. Finally, we investigated the influence of morphology and size on the vibrational properties of disordered clusters of colloidal particles. Spectral features of cluster vibrational modes are found to depend strongly on the average number of nearest neighbors but only weakly on the number of particles in each glassy cluster. The scaling of the median phonon frequency with nearest neighbor number is reminiscent of athermal simulations of the jamming transition.