Low-Temperature Crystal Structures of the Hard Core Square Shoulder Model

Materials (Basel). 2017 Nov 7;10(11):1280. doi: 10.3390/ma10111280.


In many cases, the stability of complex structures in colloidal systems is enhanced by a competition between different length scales. Inspired by recent experiments on nanoparticles coated with polymers, we use Monte Carlo simulations to explore the types of crystal structures that can form in a simple hard-core square shoulder model that explicitly incorporates two favored distances between the particles. To this end, we combine Monte Carlo-based crystal structure finding algorithms with free energies obtained using a mean-field cell theory approach, and draw phase diagrams for two different values of the square shoulder width as a function of the density and temperature. Moreover, we map out the zero-temperature phase diagram for a broad range of shoulder widths. Our results show the stability of a rich variety of crystal phases, such as body-centered orthogonal (BCO) lattices not previously considered for the square shoulder model.

Keywords: cell theory; colloidal crystals; computer simulation; hard core square-shoulder model; phase behavior.