Universal reshaping of arrested colloidal gels via active doping

S. A. Mallory, M. L. Bowers, A. Cacciuto

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Colloids that interact via a short-range attraction serve as the primary building blocks for a broad range of self-assembled materials. However, one of the well-known drawbacks to this strategy is that these building blocks rapidly and readily condense into a metastable colloidal gel. Using computer simulations, we illustrate how the addition of a small fraction of purely repulsive self-propelled colloids, a technique referred to as active doping, can prevent the formation of this metastable gel state and drive the system toward its thermodynamically favored crystalline target structure. The simplicity and robust nature of this strategy offers a systematic and generic pathway to improving the self-assembly of a large number of complex colloidal structures. We discuss in detail the process by which this feat is accomplished and provide quantitative metrics for exploiting it to modulate the self-assembly. We provide evidence for the generic nature of this approach by demonstrating that it remains robust under a number of different anisotropic short-ranged pair interactions in both two and three dimensions. In addition, we report on a novel microphase in mixtures of passive and active colloids. For a broad range of self-propelling velocities, it is possible to stabilize a suspension of fairly monodisperse finite-size crystallites. Surprisingly, this microphase is also insensitive to the underlying pair interaction between building blocks. The active stabilization of these moderately sized monodisperse clusters is quite remarkable and should be of great utility in the design of hierarchical self-assembly strategies. This work further bolsters the notion that active forces can play a pivotal role in directing colloidal self-assembly.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number084901
JournalJournal of Chemical Physics
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 28 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Physics and Astronomy
  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry


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