The depletion-induced phase separation in a mixture of colloidal particles (PMMA-latex) and nonadsorbing polymers [poly(styrene)] in a solvent (mixture of tetralin, cis-decalin, and carbon tetrachloride) was investigated in real space with confocal scanning laser microscopy in the initial, intermediate, and final stage. It was found that the kinetics and the morphology of the phase separation strongly depend on the polymer concentration, and thus on the strength of the depletion-induced attraction between the colloidal particles. At moderate polymer concentrations, crystallization of the PMMA particles is enhanced. At higher polymer concentrations, only aggregation is observed, resulting in amorphous sediments. The aggregation is diffusion-limited or reaction-limited, depending on the polymer concentration. Digital image processing was used to determine the dependence of the aggregation rate and the size of the clusters on the polymer concentration.

Phys. Rev. E

de Hoog, E. H. A., Kegel, W. K., van Blaaderen, A., & Lekkerkerker, H. N. W. (2001). Direct observation of crystallization and aggregation in a phase-separating colloid-polymer suspension. Phys. Rev. E, 64(Article number: 21407), 1–9.