Effects of Polydispersity on the Phase Behavior of Additive Hard Spheres in Solution

L.L. Sturtewagen*, E. van der Linden

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


The ability to separate enzymes, nucleic acids, cells, and viruses is an important asset in life sciences. This can be realised by using their spontaneous asymmetric partitioning over two macromolecular aqueous phases in equilibrium with one another. Such phases can already form while mixing two different types of macromolecules in water. We investigate the effect of polydispersity of the macromolecules on the two-phase formation. We study theoretically the phase behavior of a model polydisperse system: an asymmetric binary mixture of hard spheres, of which the smaller component is monodisperse and the larger component is polydisperse. The interactions are modelled in terms of the second virial coefficient and are assumed to be additive hard sphere interactions. The polydisperse component is subdivided into sub-components and has an average size ten times the size of the monodisperse component. We calculate the theoretical liquid–liquid phase separation boundary (the binodal), the critical point, and the spinodal. We vary the distribution of the polydisperse component in terms of skewness, modality, polydispersity, and number of sub-components. We compare the phase behavior of the polydisperse mixtures with their concomittant monodisperse mixtures. We find that the largest species in the larger (polydisperse) component causes the largest shift in the position of the phase boundary, critical point, and spinodal compared to the binary monodisperse binary mixtures. The polydisperse component also shows fractionation. The smaller species of the polydisperse component favor the phase enriched in the smaller component. This phase also has a higher-volume fraction compared to the monodisperse mixture.
Original languageEnglish
Article number1543
Number of pages29
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 11 Mar 2021


  • Polydispersity
  • hard spheres
  • phase behavior
  • virial coefficient


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