We study the phase behavior of a system of charged colloidal particles that are electrostatically bound to an almost flat interface between two fluids. We show that, despite the fact that our experimental system consists of only 103-104 particles, the phase behavior is consistent with the theory of melting due to Kosterlitz, Thouless, Halperin, Nelson, and Young. Using spatial and temporal correlations of the bond-orientational order parameter, we classify our samples into solid, isotropic fluid, and hexatic phases. We demonstrate that the topological defect structure we observe in each phase corresponds to the predictions of Kosterlitz-Thouless-Halperin-Nelson-Young theory. By measuring the dynamic Lindemann parameter γL(τ) and the non-Gaussian parameter α2(τ) of the displacements of the particles relative to their neighbors, we show that each of the phases displays distinctive dynamical behavior.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Statistical and Nonlinear Physics
- Statistics and Probability
- Condensed Matter Physics