Research ArticlePHYSICS

Size-dependent thermodynamic structural selection in colloidal crystallization

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Science Advances  13 Sep 2019:
Vol. 5, no. 9, eaaw5912
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aaw5912


Nucleation and growth of crystalline phases play an important role in a variety of physical phenomena, ranging from freezing of liquids to assembly of colloidal particles. Understanding these processes in the context of colloidal crystallization is of great importance for predicting and controlling the structures produced. In many systems, crystallites that nucleate have structures differing from those expected from bulk equilibrium thermodynamic considerations, and this is often attributed to kinetic effects. In this work, we consider the self-assembly of a binary mixture of colloids in two dimensions, which exhibits a structural transformation from a non–close-packed to a close-packed lattice during crystal growth. We show that this transformation is thermodynamically driven, resulting from size dependence of the relative free energy between the two structures. We demonstrate that structural selection can be entirely thermodynamic, in contrast to previously considered effects involving growth kinetics or interaction with the surrounding fluid phase.

This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial license, which permits use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, so long as the resultant use is not for commercial advantage and provided the original work is properly cited.

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