Metallurgy of soft spheres with hard core: From BCC to Frank-Kasper phases
Understanding how soft particles can fill the space is still an open question. Structures far from classical FCC or BCC phases are now commonly experimentally observed in many different systems. Models based on pair interaction between soft particles are at present much studied in 2D. Pair interactions with two different lengths have been shown to lead to quasicrystalline architectures. It is also the case for a hard core with a square repulsive shoulder potential. In 3D, global approaches have been proposed for instance by minimizing the interface area between the deformed objects in the case of foams or micellar systems or using a self-consistent mean-field theory in copolymer melts. In this paper we propose to compare a strong van der Waals attraction between spherical hard cores and an elastic energy associated to the deformation of the soft corona. This deformation is measured as the shift between the deformed shell compared to a corona with a perfect spherical symmetry. The two main parameters in this model are: the hard-core volume fraction and the weight of the elastic energy compared to the van der Waals one. The elastic energy clearly favours the BCC structure but large van der Waals forces favor Frank and Kasper phases. This result opens a route towards controlling the building of nanoparticle superlattices with complex structures and thus original physical properties.
KeywordsSoft Matter: Colloids and Nanoparticles
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