Favored local structures in amorphous colloidal packings measured by microbeam X-ray diffraction

Amelia C. Y. Liu, Rico F. Tabor, Martin D. De Jonge, Stephen T. Mudie, Timothy C. Petersen

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17 Citations (Scopus)


Local structure and symmetry are keys to understanding how a material is formed and the properties it subsequently exhibits. This applies to both crystals and amorphous and glassy materials. In the case of amorphous materials, strong links between processing and history, structure and properties have yet to be made because measuring amorphous structure remains a significant challenge. Here, we demonstrate a method to quantify proportions of the bond-orientational order of nearest neighbor clusters [Steinhardt, et al. (1983) Phys Rev B 28:784–805] in colloidal packings by statistically analyzing the angular correlations in an ensemble of scanning transmission microbeam small-angle X-ray scattering (µSAXS) patterns. We show that local order can be modulated by tuning the potential between monodisperse, spherical colloidal silica particles using salt and surfactant additives and that more pronounced order is obtained by centrifugation than sedimentation. The order in the centrifuged glasses reflects the ground state order in the dispersion at lower packing fractions. This diffraction-based method can be applied to amorphous systems across decades in length scale to connect structure to behavior in disordered systems with a range of particle interactions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)10344-10349
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number39
Publication statusPublished - 26 Sept 2017


  • Colloid
  • Short-range order
  • Speckle pattern
  • X-ray diffraction

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