This work concerns the use of electric field gradients to manipulate the local particle concentration in a hard-sphere-like suspension. Inside a specially designed "electric bottle," we observed our colloids to collect in the regions of lowest field strength ("negative dielectrophoresis"). This allows for the use of larger field gradients and stronger dielectrophoretic forces than in the original electric bottle design, which was based on positive dielectrophoresis [M. T. Sullivan, Phys. Rev. Lett. 96, 015703 (2006)]. We used confocal scanning laser microscopy to quantitatively follow the time-dependent change in the particle density and the suspension structure. Within a few days, the dielectrophoretic compression was seen to initiate a heterogeneouslike growth of large single crystals, which took place far out-of-equilibrium. The crystals had a random hexagonal close-packed structure and displayed an intriguing growth mechanism, during which the entire crystal was continuously transported, while growing both on the "high-field" and the "low-field" sides, although at different rates. After switching off the electric field, the compressed crystals were found to relax to a lower packing fraction and melt, at a much slower rate than the crystal growth. Besides revealing the particular (far out-of-equilibrium) crystal growth mechanism in these electric bottles, our observations also shed light on the role of the different particle transport processes in the cell and some of the relevant tuning parameters. This is useful for different types of experiments, for instance, focusing more on melting, homogeneous crystallization, or the glass transition.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Physics and Astronomy(all)
- Physical and Theoretical Chemistry