- JOURNAL OF CHEMICAL PHYSICS Journal
- March 2011
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- We theoretically discuss, using density-functional theory, the phase stability of nematic and smectic ordering in a suspension of platelets of the same thickness but with a high polydispersity in diameter, and study the influence of polydispersity on this stability. The platelets are assumed to interact like hard objects, but additional soft attractive and repulsive interactions, meant to represent the effect of depletion interactions due to the addition of nonabsorbing polymer, or of screened Coulomb interactions between charged platelets in an aqueous solvent, respectively, are also considered. The aspect (diameter-to-thickness) ratio is taken to be very high, in order to model solutions of mineral platelets recently explored experimentally. In this regime a high degree of orientational ordering occurs; therefore, the model platelets can be taken as completely parallel and are amenable to analysis via a fundamental-measure theory. Our focus is on the nematic versus smectic phase interplay, since a high degree of polydispersity in diameter suppresses the formation of the columnar phase. When interactions are purely hard, the theory predicts a continuous nematic-to-smectic transition, regardless of the degree of diameter polydispersity. However, polydispersity enhances the stability of the smectic phase against the nematic phase. Predictions for the case where an additional soft interaction is added are obtained using mean-field perturbation theory. In the case of the one-component fluid, the transition remains continuous for repulsive forces, and the smectic phase becomes more stable as the range of the interaction is decreased. The opposite behavior with respect to the range is observed (... ) When platelet polydispersity is introduced the tricritical temperature shifts to very high values.