Revisit to phase diagram of poly(N-isopropylacrylamide) microgel suspensions by mechanical spectroscopy

Huaguang Wang, Xuebang Wu, Zhengang Zhu, C. S. Liu, Zexin Zhang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Citations (Scopus)


Microgels are soft particles that can be deformed and compressed, which would induce intriguing phase behaviors at high packing fractions. Poly(N-isopropylacrylamide) (PNIPAM) microgels, with a lower critical solution temperature (LCST) of 33 °C, have attracted considerable interests as model colloids, since the volume of them and the interaction between the microgels can be tuned precisely by temperature. In this work, the linear viscoelastic properties of PNIPAM microgel suspensions have been investigated using mechanical spectroscopy. A particular attention is focused on the phase behaviors at high concentrations. With increasing concentration the system undergoes a repulsive glass-to-gel transition below the LCST, while, as temperature is raised across the LCST, the system undergoes a gel-to-attractive glass transition. A mechanism of these transitions for the microgels is proposed based on the directional interaction between the particles. In moderate concentration or de-swelling microgels the interaction is isotropic leading to the glass phase, while in concentrated and deformed microgels the interaction is directional leading to the gel phase. Our results enrich the current understanding of the phase transition in microgel systems and shed new light on the phase diagram of colloidal suspensions in general.

Original languageEnglish
Article number024908
JournalJournal of Chemical Physics
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 14 Jan 2014
Externally publishedYes


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