Tunable colloids: control of colloidal phase transitions with tunable interactions
Systems of spherical colloidal particles mimic the thermodynamics of atomic crystals. Control of interparticle interactions in colloids, which has recently begun to be extensively exploited, gives rise to rich phase behaviours as well as crystal structures with nanoscale and micron-scale lattice spacings. This provides model systems in which to study fundamental problems in condensed matter physics, such as the dynamics of crystal nucleation and melting, and the nature of the glass transition, at experimentally accessible lengthscales and timescales. Tunable control of these interactions provides reversible control. This will enable quantitative studies of phase transition kinetics as well as the creation of advanced materials with switchability of function and properties.