The physics of the colloidal glass transition

Rep Prog Phys. 2012 Jun;75(6):066501. doi: 10.1088/0034-4885/75/6/066501. Epub 2012 May 16.

Abstract

As one increases the concentration of a colloidal suspension, the system exhibits a dramatic increase in viscosity. Beyond a certain concentration, the system is said to be a colloidal glass; structurally, the system resembles a liquid, yet motions within the suspension are slow enough that it can be considered essentially frozen. For several decades, colloids have served as a valuable model system for understanding the glass transition in molecular systems. The spatial and temporal scales involved allow these systems to be studied by a wide variety of experimental techniques. The focus of this review is the current state of understanding of the colloidal glass transition, with an emphasis on experimental observations. A brief introduction is given to important experimental techniques used to study the glass transition in colloids. We describe features of colloidal systems near and in glassy states, including increases in viscosity and relaxation times, dynamical heterogeneity and ageing, among others. We also compare and contrast the glass transition in colloids to that in molecular liquids. Other glassy systems are briefly discussed, as well as recently developed synthesis techniques that will keep these systems rich with interesting physics for years to come.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Colloids / chemistry*
  • Computer Simulation
  • Glass / chemistry*
  • Models, Chemical*
  • Models, Molecular*
  • Phase Transition*

Substances

  • Colloids