Abstract:
The critical behavior of a model colloid-polymer mixture, the so-called AO model, is studied using computer simulations and finite size scaling techniques. Investigated are the interfacial tension, the order parameter, the susceptibility and the coexistence diameter. Our results clearly show that the interfacial tension vanishes at the critical point with exponent 2\nu ~ 1.26. This is in good agreement with the 3D Ising exponent. Also calculated are critical amplitude ratios, which are shown to be compatible with the corresponding 3D Ising values. We additionally identify a number of subtleties that are encountered when finite size scaling is applied to the AO model. In particular, we find that the finite size extrapolation of the interfacial tension is most consistent when logarithmic size dependences are ignored. This finding is in agreement with the work of Berg et al.[Phys. Rev. B, V47 P497 (1993)]

Abstract:
Monte Carlo simulations at constant pressure are performed to study coexistence and interfacial properties of the liquid-solid transition in hard spheres and in colloid-polymer mixtures. The latter system is described as a one-component Asakura-Oosawa (AO) model where the polymer's degrees of freedom are incorporated via an attractive part in the effective potential for the colloid-colloid interactions. For the considered AO model, the polymer reservoir packing fraction is eta_p^r=0.1 and the colloid-polymer size ratio is q=sigma_p/\sigma=0.15 (with sigma_p and sigma the diameter of polymers and colloids, respectively). Inhomogeneous solid-liquid systems are prepared by placing the solid fcc phase in the middle of a rectangular simulation box creating two interfaces with the adjoined bulk liquid. By analyzing the growth of the crystalline region at various pressures and for different system sizes, the coexistence pressure p_co is obtained, yielding p_co=11.576 k_BT/sigma^3 for the hard sphere system and p_co=8.0 k_BT/sigma^3 for the AO model (with k_B the Boltzmann constant and T the temperature). Several order parameters are introduced to distinguish between solid and liquid phases and to describe the interfacial properties. From the capillary-wave broadening of the solid-liquid interface, the interfacial stiffness is obtained for the (100) crystalline plane, giving the values gamma=0.49 k_BT/sigma^2 for the hard-sphere system and gamma=0.95 k_BT/sigma^2 for the AO model.

Abstract:
We study phase separation and transient gelation in a mixture consisting of polydisperse colloids and non-adsorbing polymers, where the ratio of the average size of the polymer to that of the colloid is approximately 0.063. Unlike what has been reported previously for mixtures with somewhat lower colloid polydispersity, the addition of polymers does not expand the fluid-solid coexistence region. Instead, we find a region of fluid-solid coexistence which has an approximately constant width but an unexpected re-entrant shape. We detect the presence of a metastable gas-liquid binodal, which gives rise to two-stepped crystallization kinetics that can be rationalized as the effect of fractionation. Finally, we find that the separation into multiple coexisting solid phases at high colloid volume fractions predicted by equilibrium statistical mechanics is kinetically suppressed before the system reaches dynamical arrest.

Abstract:
We investigate the influence of confinement on phase separation in colloid-polymer mixtures. To describe the particle interactions, the colloid-polymer model of Asakura and Oosawa [J. Chem. Phys. 22, 1255 (1954)] is used. Grand canonical Monte Carlo simulations are then applied to this model confined between two parallel hard walls, separated by a distance D=5 colloid diameters. We focus on the critical regime of the phase separation and look for signs of crossover from three-dimensional (3D) Ising to two-dimensional (2D) Ising universality. To extract the critical behavior, finite size scaling techniques are used, including the recently proposed algorithm of Kim et al. [Phys. Rev. Lett. 91, 065701 (2003)]. Our results point to effective critical exponents that differ profoundly from 3D Ising values, and that are already very close to 2D Ising values. In particular, we observe that the critical exponent beta of the order parameter in the confined system is smaller than in 3D bulk, yielding a flatter binodal. Our results also show an increase in the critical colloid packing fraction in the confined system with respect to the bulk. The latter seems consistent with theoretical expectations, although subtleties due to singularities in the critical behavior of the coexistence diameter cannot be ruled out.

Abstract:
We investigate the structure of colloid-polymer mixtures by calculating the structure factors for the Asakura-Oosawa model in the PY approximation. We discuss the role of potential range, polymer concentration and polymer-polymer interactions on the colloid-colloid structure. Our results compare reasonably well with the recent experiments of Moussa\"{i}d et. al. for small wavenumber $k$, but we find that the Hansen-Verlet freezing criterion is violated when the liquid phase becomes marginal.

Abstract:
We computed the phase-separation behavior and effective interactions of colloid-polymer mixtures in the "protein limit", where the polymer radius of gyration is much larger than the colloid radius. For ideal polymers, the critical colloidal packing fraction tends to zero, whereas for interacting polymers in a good solvent the behavior is governed by a universal binodal, implying a constant critical colloid packing fraction. In both systems the depletion interaction is not well described by effective pair potentials but requires the incorporation of many-body contributions.

Abstract:
We investigate with Monte Carlo computer simulations the capillary phase behaviour of model colloid-polymer mixtures confined between a flat wall and a corrugated wall. The corrugation is modelled via a sine wave as a function of one of the in-plane coordinates leading to a depletion attraction between colloids and the corrugated wall that is curvature dependent. We find that for increased amplitude of corrugation the region of the phase diagram where capillary condensation occurs becomes larger. We derive a Kelvin equation for this system and compare its predictions to the simulation results. We find good agreement between theory and simulation indicating that the primary reason for the stronger capillary condensation is an increased contact area between the fluid and the corrugated substrate. On the other hand, the colloid adsorption curves at colloid gas-liquid coexistence show that the increased area is not solely responsible for the stronger capillary condensation. Additionally, we analyse the dimensional crossover from a quasi-2D to a quasi-1D system and find that the transition is characterised by the appearance of a metastable phase.

Abstract:
We examine the demixing transition in star polymer-colloid mixtures for star arm numbers f=2,6,16,32 and different star-colloid size ratios. Theoretically, we solve the thermodynamically self-consistent Rogers-Young integral equations for binary mixtures using three effective pair potentials obtained from direct molecular computer simulations. The numerical results show a spinodal instability. The demixing binodals are approximately calculated, and found to be consistent with experimental observations.

Abstract:
The influence of confinement, due to flat parallel structureless walls, on phase separation in colloid-polymer mixtures, is investigated by means of grand-canonical Monte Carlo simulations. Ultra-thin films, with thicknesses between $D=3-10$ colloid diameters, are studied. The Asakura-Oosawa model [J. Chem. Phys. 22, 1255 (1954)] is used to describe the particle interactions. To simulate efficiently, a ``cluster move'' [J. Chem. Phys. 121, 3253 (2004)] is used in conjunction with successive umbrella sampling [J. Chem. Phys. 120, 10925 (2004)]. These techniques, when combined with finite size scaling, enable an accurate determination of the unmixing binodal. Our results show that the critical behavior of the confined mixture is described by ``effective'' critical exponents, which gradually develop from values near those of the two-dimensional Ising model, to those of the three-dimensional Ising model, as $D$ increases. The scaling predictions of Fisher and Nakanishi [J. Chem. Phys. 75, 5875 (1981)] for the shift of the critical point are compatible with our simulation results. Surprisingly, however, the colloid packing fraction at criticality approaches its bulk ($D \to \infty$) value non-monotonically, as $D$ is increased. Far from the critical point, our results are compatible with the simple Kelvin equation, implying a shift of order 1/D in the coexistence colloid chemical potential. We also present density profiles and pair distribution functions for a number of state points on the binodal, and the influence of the colloid-wall interaction is studied.

Abstract:
Using Gibbs ensemble Monte Carlo simulations and density functional theory we investigate the fluid-fluid demixing transition in inhomogeneous colloid-polymer mixtures confined between two parallel plates with separation distances between one and ten colloid diameters covering the complete range from quasi two-dimensional to bulk-like behavior. We use the Asakura-Oosawa-Vrij model in which colloid-colloid and colloid-polymer interactions are hard-sphere like, whilst the pair potential between polymers vanishes. Two different types of confinement induced by a pair of parallel walls are considered, namely either through two hard walls or through two semi-permeable walls that repel colloids but allow polymers to freely penetrate. For hard (semi-permeable) walls we find that the capillary binodal is shifted towards higher (lower) polymer fugacities and lower (higher) colloid fugacities as compared to the bulk binodal; this implies capillary condensation (evaporation) of the colloidal liquid phase in the slit. A macroscopic treatment is provided by a novel symmetric Kelvin equation for general binary mixtures, based on the proximity in chemical potentials of statepoints at capillary coexistence and the reference bulk coexistence. Results for capillary binodals compare well with those obtained from the classic version of the Kelvin equation due to Evans and Marini Bettolo Marconi [J. Chem. Phys. 86, 7138 (1987)], and are quantitatively accurate away from the fluid-fluid critical point, even at small wall separations. For hard walls the density profiles of polymers and colloids inside the slit display oscillations due to packing effects for all statepoints. For semi-permeable walls either similar structuring or flat profiles are found, depending on the statepoint considered.