Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Materials Science and Engineering (PhD)

College, School or Department Name

Department of Materials Science and Engineering


Yu U. Wang


Colloid self-assembly under external control is a new route to fabrication of advanced materials with novel microstructures and appealing functionalities. The kinetic processes of colloidal self-assembly have attracted great interests also because they are similar to many atomic level kinetic processes of materials. In the past decades, rapid technological progresses have been achieved on producing shape-anisotropic, patchy, core-shell structured particles and particles with electric/magnetic charges/dipoles, which greatly enriched the self-assembled structures. Multi-phase carrier liquids offer new route to controlling colloidal self-assembly. Therefore, heterogeneity is the essential characteristics of colloid system, while so far there still lacks a model that is able to efficiently incorporate these possible heterogeneities.

This thesis is mainly devoted to development of a model and computational study on the complex colloid system through a diffuse-interface field approach (DIFA), recently developed by Wang et al. This meso-scale model is able to describe arbitrary particle shape and arbitrary charge/dipole distribution on the surface or body of particles. Within the framework of DIFA, a Gibbs-Duhem-type formula is introduced to treat Laplace pressure in multi-liquid-phase colloidal system and it obeys Young-Laplace equation. The model is thus capable to quantitatively study important capillarity related phenomena.

Extensive computer simulations are performed to study the fundamental behavior of heterogeneous colloidal system. The role of Laplace pressure is revealed in determining the mechanical equilibrium of shape-anisotropic particles at fluid interfaces. In particular, it is found that the Laplace pressure plays a critical role in maintaining the stability of capillary bridges between close particles, which sheds light on a novel route to in situ firming compact but fragile colloidal microstructures via capillary bridges. Simulation results also show that competition between like-charge repulsion, dipole-dipole interaction and Brownian motion dictates the degree of aggregation of heterogeneously charged particles. Assembly and alignment of particles with magnetic dipoles under external field is studied. Finally, extended studies on the role of dipole-dipole interaction are performed for ferromagnetic and ferroelectric domain phenomena. The results reveal that the internal field generated by dipoles competes with external field to determine the dipole-domain evolution in ferroic materials.