Ionic microgels as model systems for colloids with an ultrasoft electrosteric repulsion: Structure and thermodynamics

  • Gottwald D
  • Likos C
  • Kahl G
 et al. 
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We present a theoretical analysis of the structural properties and phase behavior of spherical, loosely cross-linked ionic microgels that possess a low monomer concentration. The analysis is based on the recently derived effective interaction potential between such particles [A. R. Denton, Phys. Rev. E 67, 011804 (2003)]. By employing standard tools from the theory of the liquid state, we quantitatively analyze the pair correlations in the fluid and find anomalous behavior above the overlap concentration, similar to the cases of star-branched neutral and charged polymers. We also employ an evolutionary algorithm in order to predict the crystalline phases of the system without any a priori assumptions regarding their symmetry class. A very rich phase diagram is obtained, featuring two reentrant melting transitions and a number of unusual crystal structures. At high densities, both the Hansen-Verlet freezing criterion [J.-P. Hansen and L. Verlet, Phys. Rev. 184, 151 (1969)] and the Lindemann melting criterion [F. A. Lindemann, Phys. Z. 11, 609 (1910)] lose their validity. The topology of the phase diagram is altered when the steric interactions between the polymer segments become strong enough, in which case the lower-density reentrant melting disappears and the region of stability of the fluid is split into two disconnected domains, separated by intervening fcc and bcc regions.

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  • D. Gottwald

  • C. N. Likos

  • G. Kahl

  • H. Löwen

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