Colloidal gelation with non-sticky particles

YJ Jiang and R Seto, NATURE COMMUNICATIONS, 14, 2773 (2023).

DOI: 10.1038/s41467-023-38461-1

The colloidal composites of gel and solid inclusions are more commonly encountered in real life. Using simulations, authors identify two lengthscales whose interplay generically controls the gelation in composite gels. Colloidal gels are widely applied in industry due to their rheological character-no flow takes place below the yield stress. Such property enables gels to maintain uniform distribution in practical formulations; otherwise, solid components may quickly sediment without the support of gel matrix. Compared with pure gels of sticky colloids, therefore, the composites of gel and non-sticky inclusions are more commonly encountered in reality. Through numerical simulations, we investigate the gelation process in such binary composites. We find that the non-sticky particles not only confine gelation in the form of an effective volume fraction, but also introduce another lengthscale that competes with the size of growing clusters in gel. The ratio of two key lengthscales in general controls the two effects. Using different gel models, we verify such a scenario within a wide range of parameter space, suggesting a potential universality in all classes of colloidal composites.

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