Colloidal particles, amphiphiles and functionalized nanoparticles are examples of systems that frequently exhibit short-range attraction coupled with long-range repulsion. We vary the ratio of attraction and repulsion in a simple isotropic model with competing interactions, using molecular simulations, and observe significant differences in the properties of the self-assembled clusters that form. We report conditions that lead to the self-assembly of clusters of a preferred size, accompanied by a change in the slope of the pressure with respect to density, similar to micelles formed by amphiphilic molecules. We also report conditions where repulsion dominates, clusters of a preferred size form and the pressure vs. density slope is unaffected by self-assembly. We investigate cluster structure by calculating the size distributions, free colloid density, cluster shape and density profiles. The system dynamics are characterized by cluster life-times. We do not find qualitative differences in structure or dynamics of the clusters, regardless the pressure behavior. Therefore, thermodynamic and structural quantities are required to classify the different clustering characteristics that are observable in systems with competing interactions. Our results have implications in terms of development of design principles for stable cluster self-assembly.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Condensed Matter Physics