Dynamics of a network fluid within the liquid–gas coexistence region
Low-density networks of molecules or colloids are formed at low temperatures when the interparticle interactions are valence limited. Prototypical examples are networks of patchy particles, where the limited valence results from highly directional pairwise interactions. We combine extensive Langevin simulations and Wertheim's theory of association to study these networks. We find a scale-free (relaxation) dynamics within the liquid–gas coexistence region, which differs from that usually observed for isotropic particles. While for isotropic particles the relaxation dynamics is driven by surface tension (coarsening), when the valence is limited, the slow relaxation proceeds through the formation of an intermediate non-equilibrium gel via a geometrical percolation transition in the Random Percolation universality class. We show that the slow dynamics is universal, being also observed outside the coexistence region at low temperatures in the single phase region.