Controlling the dynamics of colloidal particles by critical Casimir forces
(Back cover article)
Alessandro Magazzù, Agnese Callegari, Juan Pablo Staforelli, Andrea Gambassi, Siegfried Dietrich & Giovanni Volpe
Soft Matter 15(10), 2152—2162 (2019)
Critical Casimir forces can play an important role for applications in nano-science and nano-technology, owing to their piconewton strength, nanometric action range, fine tunability as a function of temperature, and exquisite dependence on the surface properties of the involved objects. Here, we investigate the effects of critical Casimir forces on the free dynamics of a pair of colloidal particles dispersed in the bulk of a near-critical binary liquid solvent, using blinking optical tweezers. In particular, we measure the time evolution of the distance between the two colloids to determine their relative diffusion and drift velocity. Furthermore, we show how critical Casimir forces change the dynamic properties of this two-colloid system by studying the temperature dependence of the distribution of the so-called first-passage time, i.e., of the time necessary for the particles to reach for the first time a certain separation, starting from an initially assigned one. These data are in good agreement with theoretical results obtained from Monte Carlo simulations and Langevin dynamics.
Nonadditivity of critical Casimir forces
Paladugu Sathyanarayana, Agnese Callegari, Yazgan Tuna, Lukas Barth, Siegfried Dietrich, Andrea Gambassi & Giovanni Volpe
Nature Communications 7, 11403 (2016)
In soft condensed matter physics, effective interactions often emerge due to the spatial confinement of fluctuating fields. For instance, microscopic particles dissolved in a binary liquid mixture are subject to critical Casimir forces whenever their surfaces confine the thermal fluctuations of the order parameter of the solvent close to its critical demixing point. These forces are theoretically predicted to be nonadditive on the scale set by the bulk correlation length of the fluctuations. Here we provide direct experimental evidence of this fact by reporting the measurement of the associated many-body forces. We consider three colloidal particles in optical traps and observe that the critical Casimir force exerted on one of them by the other two differs from the sum of the forces they exert separately. This three-body effect depends sensitively on the distance from the critical point and on the chemical functionalisation of the colloid surfaces.