Recent progress in the science of complex coacervation
Complex coacervation is an associative, liquid–liquid phase separation that can occur in solutions of oppositely-charged macromolecular species, such as proteins, polymers, and colloids. This process results in a coacervate phase, which is a dense mix of the oppositely-charged components, and a supernatant phase, which is primarily devoid of these same species. First observed almost a century ago, coacervates have since found relevance in a wide range of applications; they are used in personal care and food products, cutting edge biotechnology, and as a motif for materials design and self-assembly. There has recently been a renaissance in our understanding of this important class of material phenomena, bringing the science of coacervation to the forefront of polymer and colloid science, biophysics, and industrial materials design. In this review, we describe the emergence of a number of these new research directions, specifically in the context of polymer–polymer complex coacervates, which are inspired by a number of key physical and chemical insights and driven by a diverse range of experimental, theoretical, and computational approaches.