Phase separation can be induced in a colloidal dispersion by adding non-adsorbing polymers. Depletion of polymer around the colloidal particles induces an effective attraction, leading to demixing at sufficient polymer concentration. This communication reviews theoretical and experimental work carried out on the polymer-mediated attraction between spherical colloids and the resulting phase separation of the polymer-colloid mixture. Theoretical studies have mainly focused on the limits where polymers are small or large as compared to the colloidal size. Recently, however, theories are being developed that cover a wider colloid-polymer size ratio range. In practical systems, size polydispersity and polyelectrolytes (instead of neutral polymers) and/or charges on the colloidal surfaces play a role in polymer-colloid mixtures. The limited amount of theoretical work performed on this is also discussed. Finally, an overview is given on experimental investigations with respect to phase behavior and results obtained with techniques enabling measurement of the depletion-induced interaction potential, the structure factor, the depletion layer thickness and the interfacial tension between the demixed phases of a colloid-polymer mixture.
- Phase behavior