Interfacial colloidal sedimentation equilibrium. I. Intensity based confocal microscopy

J Chem Phys. 2007 Oct 28;127(16):164708. doi: 10.1063/1.2794340.


This paper reports confocal microscopy measurements of inhomogeneous colloidal sedimentation equilibrium profiles near planar wall surfaces for conditions when colloid dimensions are comparable to the characteristic gravitational length scale. The intensity based confocal method developed in this work enables real-space measurements of one-dimensional density profiles of Brownian colloids without identifying many single colloid centers in large imaging volumes. Measured sedimentation equilibrium profiles for single-phase interfacial fluids and for coexisting inhomogeneous fluid and solid phases are in agreement with a perturbation theory and Monte Carlo simulations within the local density approximation. Monte Carlo simulated colloid scale density profiles display some minor differences with confocal images in terms of microstructural transitions involving the onset of interfacial crystallization and the precise elevation of the fluid-solid interface. These discrepancies are attributed to polydispersity unaccounted for in the analyses, sensitivity of the perturbation theory to the effective hard sphere size, and the influence of ensemble, system size, and box shape in Monte Carlo simulations involving anisotropic/inhomogeneous solids. Successful demonstration of intensity based confocal microscopy provides a basis for future measurements of three-dimensional colloidal interactions, dynamics, and structure near surfaces.