The microscopic role of deformation in the dynamics of soft colloids published in Nature

Nicoletta Gnan and Emanuela Zaccarelli have published The microscopic role of deformation in the dynamics of soft colloids in Nature Physics.

Soft colloids enable the exploration of states with densities exceeding that of random close packing, but it remains unclear whether softness controls the dynamics under these dense conditions. Experimental studies have reported conflicting results, and numerical studies have so far focused primarily on simple models that allow particles to overlap, but neglect particle deformations. This makes the concept of softness in simulations and experiments difficult to compare. Here, we propose a model system consisting of polymer rings with internal elasticity. At high packing fractions, the system displays compressed exponential decay of the intermediate scattering functions and super diffusive behaviour of the mean-squared displacements. These features are explained in terms of the complex interplay between particle deformations and dynamic heterogeneities, which gives rise to persistent motion of ballistic particles. We also observe a striking variation of the relaxation times with increasing particle softness, clearly demonstrating the crucial role of deformation in the dynamics of realistic soft colloids.

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