Gelation is a common effect in aqueous suspensions of charged colloidal clay platelets at concentrations as low as 1 wt%. However, in systems of charged gibbsite [Al(OH)3] platelets, gelation can be delayed to concentrations as high as 50 wt% depending on the ionic strength. We investigated the phase behaviour of this system approaching the state of gelation in the delicate region between attractive and repulsive states that originate from competition between Coulomb repulsion and van der Waals attraction. As a function of the ionic strength, isotropic–nematic, nematic–columnar and isotropic–columnar phase separations were observed. Moreover, compression by gravitational forces allowed us to observe phase separation that is arrested by gelation in the homogeneous suspensions.
One contribution of 18 to a Discussion Meeting Issue ‘New directions in liquid crystals’.
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