Dynamic interfaces for contact-time control of colloidal interactions†
Understanding pairwise interactions between colloidal particles out of equilibrium has a profound impact on dynamical processes such as colloidal self assembly. However, traditional colloidal interactions are effectively quasi-static on colloidal timescales and cannot be modulated out of equilibrium. A mechanism to dynamically tune the interactions during colloidal contacts can provide new avenues for self assembly and material design. In this work, we develop a framework based on polymer-coated colloids and demonstrate that in-plane surface mobility and mechanical relaxation of polymers at colloidal contact interfaces enable an effective, dynamic interaction. Combining analytical theory, simulations, and optical tweezer experiments, we demonstrate precise control of dynamic pair interactions over a range of pico-Newton forces and seconds timescales. Our model helps further the general understanding of out-of-equilibrium colloidal assemblies while providing extensive design freedom via interface modulation and nonequilibrium processing.