Critical concentration for colloidal crystallization determined with microliter centrifuged suspensions

Langmuir. 2005 Aug 16;21(17):7633-7. doi: 10.1021/la051177f.


We report an elegant method using centrifugal sedimentation for determining the critical particle concentration for colloidal crystallization. A small amount of a dilute suspension of monodispersed particles stored in a flat capillary cell was centrifuged to temporarily generate a nonequilibrium gradient of the particle concentration including a crystalline-noncrystalline phase boundary in the cell. In the recovering process after the centrifugation, the particle concentration of the crystalline phase at the boundary was found to always have the equilibrium value, although the global concentration distribution evolved with time. The critical concentration was determined based on spatially resolved spectrometry. The present method requires only one batch of a suspension of the order of microliters and is applicable up to high concentration regions near the closest packing without the effect of the particle aggregation.