Generalized phase behavior of cluster formation in colloidal dispersions with competing interactions†
Colloidal liquids interacting with short range attraction and long range repulsion, such as proposed for some protein solutions, have been found to exhibit novel states consisting of equilibrium particle clusters. Monte Carlo simulations are performed for two physically meaningful inter-particle potentials across a broad range of interaction parameters, temperatures and volume fractions to locate the conditions where clustered states are found. A corresponding states phase behavior is identified when normalized by the critical point of an appropriately selected reference attractive fluid. Clustered fluid states and cluster percolated states are found exclusively within the two phase region of the state diagram for a reference attractive fluid, confirming the underlying intrinsic relation between clustered states and bulk phase separation. Clustered and cluster percolated states consistently exhibit an intermediate range order peak in their structure factors with a magnitude above 2.7, leading to a semi-empirical rule for identifying clustered fluids in scattering experiments.