Critical Casimir forces attract increasing interest due to their opportunities for reversible particle assembly in soft matter and nano science. These forces provide a thermodynamic analogue of the celebrated quantum mechanical Casimir force that arises from the confinement of vacuum fluctuations of the electromagnetic field. In its thermodynamic analogue, solvent fluctuations, confined between suspended particles, give rise to an attractive or repulsive force between the particles. Due to its unique temperature dependence, this effect allows in situ control of reversible assembly. Both the force magnitude and range vary with the solvent correlation length in a universal manner, adjusting with temperature from fractions of the thermal energy, k B T, and nanometre range to several ten kT and micrometer length scale. Combined with recent breakthroughs in the synthesis of complex particles, critical Casimir forces promise the design and assembly of complex colloidal structures, for fundamental studies of equilibrium and out-of-equilibrium phase behaviour. This review highlights recent developments in this evolving field, with special emphasis on the dynamic interaction control to assemble colloidal structures, in and out of equilibrium.
- critical Casimir effect
- hydrophobic effect