Structural and dynamical features of multiple metastable glassy states in a colloidal system with competing interactions

Phys Rev Lett. 2010 Apr 23;104(16):165702. doi: 10.1103/PhysRevLett.104.165702. Epub 2010 Apr 23.


Systems in which a short-ranged attraction and long-ranged repulsion compete are intrinsically frustrated, leading their structure and dynamics to be dominated either by mesoscopic order or by metastable disorder. Here, we report the latter case in a colloidal system with long-ranged electrostatic repulsions and short-ranged depletion attractions. We find a variety of states exhibiting slow nondiffusive dynamics: a gel, a glassy state of clusters, and a state reminiscent of a Wigner glass. Varying the interactions, we find a continuous crossover between the Wigner and cluster glassy states, and a sharp discontinuous transition between the Wigner glassy state and gel. Our results suggest that a balance between repulsions and attractions controls the nature of dynamic arrest of these glassy states.