Aggregation of Heterogeneously Charged Colloids

Joshua M. Dempster, Monica Olvera De La Cruz*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

36 Scopus citations


Patchy colloids are attractive as programmable building blocks for metamaterials. Inverse patchy colloids, in which a charged surface is decorated with patches of the opposite charge, are additionally noteworthy as models for heterogeneously charged biological materials such as proteins. We study the phases and aggregation behavior of a single charged patch in an oppositely charged colloid with a single-site model. This single-patch inverse patchy colloid model shows a large number of phases when varying patch size. For large patch sizes we find ferroelectric crystals, while small patch sizes produce cross-linked gels. Intermediate values produce monodisperse clusters and unusual worm structures that preserve finite ratios of area to volume. The polarization observed at large patch sizes is robust under extreme disorder in patch size and shape. We examine phase-temperature dependence and coexistence curves and find that large patch sizes produce polarized liquids, in contrast to mean-field predictions. Finally, we introduce small numbers of unpatched charged colloids. These can either suppress or encourage aggregation depending on their concentration and the size of the patches on the patched colloids. These effects can be exploited to control aggregation and to measure effective patch size.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5909-5915
Number of pages7
JournalACS nano
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 28 2016


  • colloid models
  • ferroelectrical materials
  • nanoparticles
  • patchy colloids
  • self-assembly

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Materials Science(all)
  • Engineering(all)
  • Physics and Astronomy(all)


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