Structure and dynamics of a two-dimensional colloid of liquid droplets†
Droplet arrays in thin, freely suspended liquid-crystalline smectic A films can form two-dimensional (2D) colloids. The droplets interact repulsively, arranging locally in a more or less hexagonal arrangement with only short-range spatial and orientational correlations and local lattice cell parameters that depend on droplet size. In contrast to quasi-2D colloids described earlier, there is no 3D bulk liquid subphase that affects the hydrodynamics. Although the films are surrounded by air, the droplet dynamics are genuinely 2D, the mobility of each droplet in its six-neighbor cage being determined by the ratio of cage and droplet sizes, rather than by the droplet size as in quasi-2D colloids. These experimental observations are described well by Saffman's model of a diffusing particle in a finite 2D membrane. The experiments were performed in microgravity, on the International Space Station.