We present a systematic investigation of the structure and dynamic properties of model soft–hard colloidal mixtures. Results of a coarse-grained theoretical model are contrasted with rheological data, where the soft and hard colloids are mimicked by large star polymers with high functionality as the soft component and smaller stars with ultrahigh functionality as the hard one. Previous work by us revealed the recovery of the ergodicity of glassy soft star solutions and subsequent arrested phase separation and re-entrant solid transition upon progressive addition of small hard depletants. Here, we use different components to show that a small variation in softness has a significant impact on the state diagram of such mixtures. In particular, we establish that rendering the soft component more penetrable and modifying the size ratio bring about a remarkable shift in both the phase separation region and the glass-melting line so that the region of restored ergodicity can be notably enhanced and extended to much higher star polymer concentrations than for pure systems. We further rationalize our findings by analyzing the features of the depletion interaction induced by the smaller component that result from the interplay between the size ratio and the softness of the large component. These results demonstrate the great sensitivity of the phase behavior of entropic mixtures to small changes in the molecular architecture of the soft stars and point to the importance of accounting for details of the internal microstructure of soft colloidal particles for tailoring the flow properties of soft composites.
Effect of softness on glass melting and re-entrant solidification in mixtures of soft and hard colloids
Daniele Parisi, Manuel Camargo, Kalliopi Makri, Mario Gauthier, Christos N. Likos, Dimitris Vlassopoulos; Effect of softness on glass melting and re-entrant solidification in mixtures of soft and hard colloids. J. Chem. Phys. 21 July 2021; 155 (3): 034901. https://doi.org/10.1063/5.0055381
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