Menut, P.; Seiffert, S.; Sprakel, J.; Weitz, D.A.: Does size matter? Elasticity of compressed suspensions of colloidal- and granular-scale microgels. Soft Matter 8 (2012), p. 156-164
We investigate the mechanics of dense packing of very small, colloidal-scale, and larger, granular-scale microgel particles. At low particle concentration, thermally induced Brownian motion of the particles is important for the colloidal-scale systems; in contrast, such Brownian motion is irrelevant at particle packing fractions beyond jamming. As a consequence, colloidal and granular systems behave very similarly under these conditions. At sufficiently high compression of the microgel particles, their polymeric nature sets the scale of the osmotic pressure and shear modulus of the whole packing, in direct analogy with macroscopic, continuous polymer gels. This observation suggests that the particulate nature of microgels is inconsequential for their linear elasticity in a highly packed state. In contrast, the particulate nature of the microgels does become essential when the packed suspensions are forced to yield and flow; here, the differences between colloidal- and granular-scale particles are marked.