Phase Behavior of Nanoparticle Suspensions
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The assembly of nanoparticles into interesting and useful structures requires the manipulation of particle interactions at the level of a few times the average thermal energy in the system such that the particles can sample an ensemble of states. When allowed to reach equilibrium, colloidal suspensions display phase behavior similar to that seen in molecular systems. The phases observed can be manipulated through alterations in particle density and particle surface chemistry. The richness of the phase diagram can be expanded by introducing anisotropic interactions, or by working with mixtures of particles. Under some conditions, as the strength of attraction or particle concentration is increased, suspensions fall out of equilibrium and glasses or gels are observed. Here we review links that have been recently made between experimental observations and statistical mechanics of suspension phase behavior and suggest where advances will be made in the future.