Binary mixtures of colloidal particles of sufficiently different sizes or shapes tend to demix at high concentration. Already at low concentration, excluded volume interactions between the two species give rise to structuring effects. Here, a new theoretical description is proposed of the structure of colloidal sphere-plate mixtures, based on a density expansion of the work needed to insert a pair of spheres and a single sphere in a sea of them, in the presence or not of plates. The theory is first validated using computer simulations. The predictions are then compared to experimental observations using silica spheres and gibbsite platelets. Small-angle neutron scattering was used to determine the change of the structure factor of spheres on addition of platelets, under solvent contrast conditions where the platelets were invisible. Theory and experiment agreed very well for a platelet/sphere diameter ratio D/d = 2.2 and reasonably well for D/d = 5. The sphere structure factor increases at low scattering vector Q in the presence of platelets; a weak reduction of the sphere structure factor was predicted at larger Q, and for the system with D/d = 2.2 was indeed observed experimentally. At fixed particle volume fraction, an increase in diameter ratio leads to a large change in structure factor. Systems with a larger diameter ratio also phase separate at lower concentrations.

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Last edited: Friday September 10, 2010

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