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The addition of sterically stabilized colloidal particles to a phase-separating microemulsion leads to dramatic changes in its demixing behavior, especially during the later stages. Our microemulsion is composed of reverse micelles of sodium dodecyl sulfate, pentanol, and water in a dodecane continuous phase which separates into micelle-rich and micelle-poor phases above a lower critical solution temperature. The poly(methyl methacrylate) particles preferentially partition into the less structured, micelle-poor phase. Nucleation of the minority phase or spinodal decomposition close to criticality continue to occur in the presence of particles, albeit with pronounced pretransitional clustering of particles when the micelle-poor phase is in the minority. The coalescence of micelle-poor droplets and the coarsening of micelle-rich domains are both strongly modified due to the presence of colloidal particles. We use our observations of the early stages of phase separation to understand these late stage changes.
- BINARY-LIQUID MIXTURES