Anisotropy effects on the kinetics of colloidal crystallization and melting: comparison of spheres and ellipsoids†
We use alternating current (AC) electric field assisted self-assembly to produce two-dimensional, millimeter scale arrays of ellipsoidal colloids and study the kinetics of their phase reconfiguration by means of confocal microscopy, light scattering, and computer simulation. We find that the kinetics of orientational and positional ordering can be manipulated by changing the shape of the colloids: ellipsoids with aspect ratio 2.0 melt into disordered structures 5.7 times faster compared to spheres. On the other hand, ellipsoids self-assemble into ordered crystals at a similar rate to spheres. Confocal microscopy is used to directly visualize defects in the self-assembled structures. Small-angle light scattering (SALS) quantifies the light diffraction response, which is sensitive to the kinetics of positional and orientational ordering in the self-assembled anisotropic structures. We find three different light diffraction patterns: a phase with high orientational order (with chain-like structure in real space), a phase with high positional and orientational order (characteristic of a close-packed structure), and a phase that is disordered in position but with intermediate orientational order. The large influence of aspect ratio on the kinetics of the positionally and orientationally ordered phase is explored through simulation; it is found that the number of particle degrees of freedom controls the difference between the melting rates of the ellipsoids and spheres. This research contributes to the understanding of reconfiguration kinetics and optical properties of colloidal crystals produced from anisotropic colloids.