"In this proposal we present a program of research and training in the area of soft condensed matter and statistical physics, focusing on understanding the role of long ranged interactions on phase behavior of anisotropic colloids. The Interesting interplay between anisotropic shape, long range interactions and its consequences on the phase behavior of
nanoparticles is a challenging problem which is far from well-understood. As an important step towards realizing this goal, we aim for a systematic study of both equilibrium and non-equilibrium phases of charged anisotropic colloids with axial symmetry. This can be envisaged in the general framework of charged spheroidal particles. The research project will explore the phase behavior of charged spheroids as a function of various control parameters (charge, size, aspect ratio and ionic strength). This model system has direct implications for the system of clays, which are a particular group of anisotropic colloids (platelet shapes), with widespread applications. An important issue in this respect to be resolved is to understand why the isotropic-nematic transition is preempted by a gel-like phase in some clays, while the reverse behavior (nematic order observed before gel phase upon increasing clay density) has been reported in seemingly very closely related compounds. We plan a direct collaboration with the experimental groups working on clays in University of Paris Sud (Patrick Davidson) and Ecole Polytechnique de Paris (Pierre Levitz) and as a result comparison of our results with experimental data is an essential part of project."
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