Crystallizing hard-sphere glasses by doping with active particles
Crystallization and vitrification are two different routes to form a solid. Normally these two processes suppress each other, with the glass transition preventing crystallization at high density (or low temperature). This is even true for systems of colloidal hard spheres, which are commonly used as building blocks for novel functional materials with potential applications, e.g. photonic crystals. By performing Brownian dynamics simulations of glassy systems consisting of mixtures of active and passive hard spheres, we show that the crystallization of such hard-sphere glasses can be dramatically promoted by doping the system with small amounts of active particles. Surprisingly, even hard-sphere glasses of packing fraction up to ϕ = 0.635 crystallize, which is around 0.5% below the random close packing at ϕ ≃ 0.64. Our results suggest a novel way of fabricating crystalline materials from (colloidal) glasses. This is particularly important for materials that get easily kinetically trapped in glassy states, and the crystal nucleation hardly occurs.