In this contribution, gravitational effects in gel-forming patchy colloidal systems are studied. We focus on how the gel structure is modified by gravity. Through Monte Carlo computer simulations of gel-like states recently identified by the rigidity percolation criterion [J. A. S. Gallegos et al., Phys. Rev. E 104, 064606 (2021)], the influence of the gravitational field, characterized by the gravitational Péclet number, Pe, on patchy colloids is studied in terms of the patchy coverage, χ. Our findings point out that there exists a threshold Péclet number, Peg, that depends on χ above which the gravitational field enhances the particle bonding and, in consequence, promotes the aggregation or clustering of particles; the smaller the χ value, the higher the Peg. Interestingly, when χ ∼ 1 (near the isotropic limit), our results are consistent with an experimentally determined threshold Pe value where gravity affects the gel formation in short-range attractive colloids. In addition, our results show that the cluster size distribution and the density profile undergo variations that lead to changes in the percolating cluster, i.e., gravity is able to modify the structure of the gel-like states. These changes have an important impact on the structural rigidity of the patchy colloidal dispersion; the percolating cluster goes from a uniform spatially network to a heterogeneous percolated structure, where an interesting structural scenario emerges, namely, depending on the Pe value, the new heterogeneous gel-like states can coexist with both diluted and dense phases or they simply reach a crystalline-like state. In the isotropic case, the increase in the Pe number can shift the critical temperature to higher temperatures; however, when Pe > 0.01, the binodal disappears and the particles fully sediment at the bottom of the sample cell. Furthermore, gravity moves the rigidity percolation threshold to lower densities. Finally, we also note that within the values of the Péclet number here explored, the cluster morphology is barely altered.
Patchy colloidal gels under the influence of gravity
Note: This paper is part of the JCP Special Topic on Colloidal Gels.
Javier A. S. Gallegos, Jaime Martínez-Rivera, Néstor E. Valadez-Pérez, Ramón Castañeda-Priego; Patchy colloidal gels under the influence of gravity. J. Chem. Phys. 21 March 2023; 158 (11): 114907. https://doi.org/10.1063/5.0130796
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