Abstract:
Colloid-polymer mixtures may undergo either fluid-fluid phase separation or gelation. This depends on the depth of the quench (polymer concentration) and polymer-colloid size ratio. We present a real-space study of dynamics in phase separating colloid-polymer mixtures with medium- to long-range attractions (polymer-colloid size ratio q_R=0.45-0.89, with the aim of understanding the mechanism of gelation as the range of the attraction is changed. In contrast to previous studies of short-range attractive systems, where gelation occurs shortly after crossing the equilibrium phase boundary, we find a substantial region of fluid-fluid phase separation. On deeper quenches the system undergoes a continuous crossover to gel formation. We identify two regimes, `classical' phase separation, where single particle relaxation is faster than the dynamics of phase separation, and `viscoelastic' phase separation, where demixing is slowed down appreciably due to slow dynamics in the colloid-rich phase. Particles at the surface of the strands of the network exhibit significantly greater mobility than those buried inside the gel strand which presents a method for coarsening.

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 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:
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:
Performing light scattering experiments we show that introducing short-ranged attraction to a colloidal suspension of nearly hard spheres by addition of free polymer produces new glass transition phenomena. We observe a dramatic acceleration of the density fluctuations amounting to the melting of a colloidal glass. Increasing the strength of the attractions the system freezes into another nonergodic state sharing some qualitative features with gel states occurring at lower colloid packing fractions. This reentrant glass transition is in qualitative agreement with recent theoretical predictions.

Abstract:
We study theoretically the equilibrium phase behaviour of a mixture of polydisperse hard-sphere colloids and monodisperse polymers, modelled using the Asakura-Oosawa model within the free volume approximation of Lekkerkerker et al. We compute full phase diagrams in the plane of colloid and polymer volume fractions, using the moment free energy method. The intricate features of phase separation in pure polydisperse colloids combine with the appearance of polymer-induced gas-liquid coexistence to give a rich variety of phase diagram topologies as the polymer-colloid size ratio and the colloid polydispersity are varied. Quantitatively, we find that polydispersity disfavours fluid-solid against gas-liquid separation, causing a substantial lowering of the threshold value above which stable two-phase gas-liquid coexistence appears. Phase splits involving two or more solids can occur already at low colloid concentration, where they may be kinetically accessible. We also analyse the strength of colloidal size fractionation. When a solid phase separates from a fluid, its polydispersity is reduced most strongly if the phase separation takes place at low colloid concentration and high polymer concentration, in agreement with experimental observations. For fractionation in gas-liquid coexistence we likewise find good agreement with experiment, as well as with perturbative theories for near-monodisperse systems.

Abstract:
We present further evidence that gelation is an arrested phase separation in attractive colloid-polymer mixtures, based on a method combining confocal microscopy experiments with numerical simulations recently established in {\bf Nature 453, 499 (2008)}. Our results are independent of the form of the interparticle attractive potential, and therefore should apply broadly to any attractive particle system with short-ranged, isotropic attractions. We also give additional characterization of the gel states in terms of their structure, inhomogeneous character and local density.

Abstract:
We study fluid-fluid phase separation in a colloid-polymer mixture adsorbed in a colloidal porous matrix close to the \theta -point. For this purpose we consider the Asakura-Oosawa model in the presence of a quenched matrix of colloidal hard spheres. We study the dependence of the demixing curve on the parameters that characterize the quenched matrix, fixing the polymer-to-colloid size ratio to 0.8. We find that, to a large extent, demixing curves depend only on a single parameter f, which represents the volume fraction which is unavailable to the colloids. We perform Monte Carlo simulations for volume fractions f equal to 40% and 70%, finding that the binodal curves in the polymer and colloid packing-fraction plane have a small dependence on disorder. The critical point instead changes significantly: for instance, the colloid packing fraction at criticality increases with increasing f. Finally, we observe for some values of the parameters capillary condensation of the colloids: a bulk colloid-poor phase is in chemical equilibrium with a colloid-rich phase in the matrix.

Abstract:
We propose a new coarse-grained model for the description of liquid-vapor phase separation of colloid-polymer mixtures. The hard-sphere repulsion between colloids and between colloids and polymers, which is used in the well-known Asakura-Oosawa (AO) model, is replaced by Weeks-Chandler-Anderson potentials. Similarly, a soft potential of height comparable to thermal energy is used for the polymer-polymer interaction, rather than treating polymers as ideal gas particles. It is shown by grand-canonical Monte Carlo simulations that this model leads to a coexistence curve that almost coincides with that of the AO model and the Ising critical behavior of static quantities is reproduced. Then the main advantage of the model is exploited - its suitability for Molecular Dynamics simulations - to study the dynamics of mean square displacements of the particles, transport coefficients such as the self-diffusion and interdiffusion coefficients, and dynamic structure factors. While the self-diffusion of polymers increases slightly when the critical point is approached, the self-diffusion of colloids decreases and at criticality the colloid self-diffusion coefficient is about a factor of 10 smaller than that of the polymers. Critical slowing down of interdiffusion is observed, which is qualitatively similar to symmetric binary Lennard-Jones mixtures, for which no dynamic asymmetry of self-diffusion coefficients occurs.

Abstract:
We consider the Asakura-Oosawa model of hard sphere colloids and ideal polymers in contact with a porous matrix modeled by immobilized configurations of hard spheres. For this ternary mixture a fundamental measure density functional theory is employed, where the matrix particles are quenched and the colloids and polymers are annealed, i.e. allowed to equilibrate. We study capillary condensation of the mixture in a tiny sample of matrix as well as demixing and the fluid-fluid interface inside a bulk matrix. Density profiles normal to the interface and surface tensions are calculated and compared to the case without matrix. Two kinds of matrices are considered: (i) colloid-sized matrix particles at low packing fractions and (ii) large matrix particles at high packing fractions. These two cases show fundamentally different behavior and should both be experimentally realizable. Furthermore, we argue that capillary condensation of a colloidal suspension could be experimentally accessible. We find that in case (ii), even at high packing fractions, the main effect of the matrix is to exclude volume and, to high accuracy, the results can be mapped onto those of the same system without matrix via a simple rescaling.