Condensed Matter Physics, 2010, vol. 13, No. 2, p. 23603:1-12

Title: Mesoscopic description of network-forming clusters of weakly charged colloids
  A. Ciach (Institute of Physical Chemistry, Polish Academy of Sciences, 01-224 Warszawa, Poland) ,
  W.T. Góźdź (Institute of Physical Chemistry, Polish Academy of Sciences, 01-224 Warszawa, Poland)

Systems composed of spherical charged particles in solvents containing counterions and inducing effective short-range attraction are studied in the framework of mesoscopic field-theory. We limit ourselves to mean-field approximation (MF) and to weak ordering. We discuss properties of potentials consisting of strong short-range attraction and weak long-range repulsion (SALR) in the context of formation of nonuniform distribution of particles on a mesoscopic length scale instead of macroscopic phase separation. In earlier work it was found that spherical, cylindrical and slab-like clusters of particles are formed, and for low enough temperatures the clusters form ordered, periodic bcc, hexagonal and lamellar phases. In addition, a gyroid phase was predicted in which two interwoven regular network-like clusters branching in triple junctions are formed. At properly rescaled density and temperature, the coexistence lines between different ordered phases were found to be universal in MF, with the exception of the gyroid phase. Here the phase diagram is determined for two choices of the SALR potential, one corresponding to a large range of the attractive part of the potential, and the other one to a very small range of attraction. We find that the region of stability of the gyroid phase very weakly depends on the form of the SALR potential within the approximate theory.

Key words: colloids, clusters, self-assembly, order-disorder phase transitions
PACS: 61.20.Gy, 64.60.De, 82.70.Dd

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