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New insights into re-entrant melting of microgel particles by polymer-induced aggregation experiments


While microgels are in general described as soft particles polystyrene (PS) microgels can be synthesized in a way that cross-link density has only a minor influence on their physical properties. Even though the particles swell in a good solvent the imparted slight softness still allows a mapping on hard sphere behaviour for a large range of cross-link densities [Schneider et al., Soft Matter, 2017, 13, 445]. Nevertheless, the hard sphere analogy breaks down as soon as polymer chains are added to these systems. Quantitative differences between PS microgels and true hard sphere systems appear and differences between stronger and weaker cross-linked PS microgels can be observed. To gain deeper insights in the origin of these deviations from true hard sphere behaviour this work is addressed to a systematic study of the colloid-polymer interactions in PS microgel-polymer mixtures. We investigated the aggregation behaviour (namely aggregation concentration and cluster structure) as function of colloid size, cross-link density and colloid-polymer size ratio in very dilute colloidal suspensions. Our results show that the interplay of cross-link density and polymer size is a key parameter for the strength of the colloid-polymer interactions. Furthermore the centre-to-centre distance of the colloidal particles in the formed clusters decreases if the cross-link density is decreased, allowing for a higher packing density. This may also explain the unusually high fluid packing fractions observed in the re-entry region of the phase diagram of PS microgel-free PS polymer mixtures.

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Publication details

The article was received on 01 Oct 2017, accepted on 03 Apr 2018 and first published on 11 Apr 2018

Article type: Paper
DOI: 10.1039/C7SM01922J
Citation: Soft Matter, 2018, Accepted Manuscript
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    New insights into re-entrant melting of microgel particles by polymer-induced aggregation experiments

    J. Schneider, M. Werner and E. Bartsch, Soft Matter, 2018, Accepted Manuscript , DOI: 10.1039/C7SM01922J

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