Form factor of pNIPAM microgels in overpacked states

J Chem Phys. 2014 Jul 21;141(3):034901. doi: 10.1063/1.4885444.


We study the form factor of thermoresponsive microgels based on poly(N-isopropylacrylamide) at high generalized volume fractions, ζ, where the particles must shrink or interpenetrate to fit into the available space. Small-angle neutron scattering with contrast matching techniques is used to determine the particle form factor. We find that the particle size is constant up to a volume fraction roughly between random close packing and space filling. Beyond this point, the particle size decreases with increasing particle concentration; this decrease is found to occur with little interpenetration. Noteworthily, the suspensions remain liquid-like for ζ larger than 1, emphasizing the importance of particle softness in determining suspension behavior.