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    Formation of superstructures from colloidal dispersion involves a continuous increase in particle concentration, resulting in increasingly more complicated interparticle interaction. At high particle concentration, the presence of the super-crowding effect, strong non-ideality in addition to significant light absorption and scattering makes particle analysis very difficult. Here we report quantitative molecular, microscopic and macroscopic experimental results on like-charged colloids with concentration up to 60 vol%, close to the densest possible packing of spheres. It is achieved by conducting sedimentation-diffusion-equilibrium analytical ultracentrifugation (SE-AUC) on a concentrated dispersion of colloidal silica nanoparticles in a refractive-index-matching solvent. Surprisingly, we observed the self-association and even colloidal gel formation of like-charged colloids at very high concentration. Further experiments indicate that the attraction force may be counter-ion mediated. These results represent an important step forward in understanding complicated interparticle interaction in extremely high concentration, which is vital for the controlled fabrication of colloidal superstructures.


    Xufeng Xu, Gijsbertus de With, Helmut Cölfen. Self-association and gel formation during sedimentation of like-charged colloids. Materials horizons. 2022 Apr 04;9(4):1216-1221

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    PMID: 35113101

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