Sterically stabilized colloids with tunable repulsions
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When studying tunable electrostatic repulsions in aqueous suspensions of charged colloids, irreversible colloid aggregation or gelation may occur at high salt concentrations. For many commonly used synthetic colloids, such as polystyrene and silica particles, the reason for coagulation is the presence of unbalanced, strongly attractive, and short-ranged van der Waals (VDW) forces. Here, we present an aqueous polystyrene model colloid that is sterically stabilized against VDW attractions. We show that the synthesis procedure, based on a neutral initiator couple and a nonionic surfactant, introduces surface charges that can be further increased by the addition of charged comonomer methacrylic acid. Thus, the interactions between the polystyrene spheres can be conveniently tuned from hard-sphere-like to charge-stabilized with long-ranged electrostatic repulsions described by a Yukawa-type pair potential. The particle size, grafting density, core-shell structure, and surface charge are characterized by light and neutron scattering. Using X-ray and neutron scattering in combination with an accurate analytic integral equation scheme for the colloidal static structure factor, we deduce effective particle charges for colloid volume fractions ≥0.1 and salt concentrations in the range of 1.5 to 50 mM.