Apparent strength versus universality in glasses of soft compressible colloids

Higler, Ruben; Sprakel, Joris


Microgel colloids, solvent swollen hydrogel particles of microscopic size, are in osmotic equilibrium with their surroundings. This has a profound effect on the behaviour of dense solutions of these polymeric colloids, most notably their ability to swell and deswell depending on the osmotic pressure of the system as a whole. Here we develop a minimal simulation model to treat this intrinsic volume regulation in order to explore the effects this has on the properties of dense solutions close to a liquid-solid transition. We demonstrate how the softness dependent volume regulation of particles gives rise to an apparent change in the fragility of the colloidal glass transition, which can be scaled out through the use of an adjusted volume fraction that accounts for changes in particle size. Moreover, we show how the same model can be used to explain the selective deswelling of soft microgels in a crystalline matrix of harder particles leading to robust crystals free of defects. Our results not only highlight the non-trivial effects of osmotic regulation in governing the apparent physics of microgel suspensions, but also provides a platform to efficiently account for particle deswelling in simulations.