Indexed on: 12 Feb '14Published on: 12 Feb '14Published in: Nature communications
Percolation and critical phenomena show common features such as scaling and universality. Colloidal particles, immersed in a solvent close to criticality, experience long-range effective forces named critical Casimir forces. Building on the analogy between critical phenomena and percolation, here we explore the possibility of observing long-range forces near a percolation threshold. To this aim, we numerically evaluate the effective potential between two colloidal particles dispersed in a chemical sol, and we show that it becomes attractive and long-ranged on approaching the sol percolation transition. We develop a theoretical description based on a polydisperse Asakura-Oosawa model that captures the divergence of the interaction range, allowing us to interpret such effect in terms of depletion interactions in a structured solvent. Our results provide the geometric analogue of the critical Casimir force, suggesting a novel way for tuning colloidal interactions by controlling the clustering properties of the solvent.