Polymer-mediated colloidal stability: on the transition between adsorption and depletion

Álvaro González García, Marjolijn M.B. Nagelkerke, Remco Tuinier (Corresponding author), Mark Vis

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Addition of polymers to a colloidal dispersion modulates the interactions between the colloids. We briefly review the effects of positive and negative adsorption (also termed depletion). The effective colloid–polymer interactions sensitively affect the colloidal phase behavior. We present a theoretical framework to predict the phase behavior of colloid–polymer mixtures for varying affinities between colloid and polymer, leading to either positive or negative adsorption of polymer segments. For certain conditions, polymers are neither depleted nor adsorbed: the polymer concentration is essentially constant up to the colloidal surface, a condition which we term neutral adsorption. Near this condition, the calculated phase diagrams reveal a stable–unstable–restabilisation transition with increasing polymer concentration. Similar effects have been reported experimentally, for instance as a function of temperature [Feng et al., Nat. Mat., 2015, 14, 61–65], which may modulate the effective polymer–colloid affinity. Understanding how to achieve neutral adsorption opens up the possibility of preparing highly dense, yet stable, colloid–polymer mixtures.

Original languageEnglish
Article number102077
Number of pages12
JournalAdvances in Colloid and Interface Science
Early online date21 Nov 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2020


  • Adsorption
  • Bridging
  • Colloidal interaction
  • Colloid–polymer mixtures
  • Depletion
  • Phase behavior
  • Colloid-polymer mixtures


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