Kinetically driven ordered phase formation in binary colloidal crystals
The aggregation of binary colloids of the same size and balanced charges is studied by Brownian dynamics simulations for dilute suspensions. It is shown that, under appropriate conditions, the formation of colloidal crystals is dominated by kinetic effects leading to the growth of well-ordered crystallites of the sodium-chloride (NaCl) bulk phase. These crystallites form with very high probability even when the cesium-chloride (CsCl) phase is more stable thermodynamically. Global optimization searches show that this result is not related to the most favorable structures of small clusters, which are either amorphous or of the CsCl structure. The formation of the NaCl phase is related to the specific kinetics of the crystallization process, which takes place by a two-step mechanism. In this mechanism, dense fluid aggregates form at first and then crystallization follows. It is shown that the type of short-range order in these dense fluid aggregates determines which phase is finally formed in the crystallites. The role of hydrodynamic effects in the aggregation process is analyzed by stochastic rotation dynamics - molecular dynamics simulations, and we find that these effects do not play a major role in the formation of the crystallites.