A new mean-field theory is developed to treat a binary mixture of nanoparticles imbedded in a polydisperse polymer solution. The theory is based on a many-body polymer-mediated potential of mean force (PMF) between the particles and remains accurate even in the protein regime, where the particles' diameters cannot necessarily be considered large compared to the polymer radius of gyration. As implemented here, the theory is strictly valid for dilute to semi-dilute polymer solutions near the theta temperature (the so-called theta regime) or when the range of the PMF is strongly affected by the polymer size. For non-adsorbing particles, this is the same regime where the celebrated Asakura-Oosawa (AO) model is often used. Unlike the traditional AO model, however, our approach includes polymer flexibility and is accurate in the protein regime. We use the theory to calculate phase diagrams for a binary mixture of unequal-sized particles, both adsorbing and non-adsorbing. To test the theory, we carry out comparisons with simulations and obtained good quantitative agreement, which gives support to its accuracy. On the other hand, the oft-used approach assuming pairwise-additive potentials of mean force produce quantitatively (and sometime qualitatively) different phase diagrams.
Subject classification (UKÄ)
- Polymer Chemistry