Sedimentation dynamics and equilibrium profiles in multicomponent mixtures of colloidal particles

E. Spruijt, P.M. Biesheuvel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

23 Citations (Scopus)


In this paper we give a general theoretical framework that describes the sedimentation of multicomponent mixtures of particles with sizes ranging from molecules to macroscopic bodies. Both equilibrium sedimentation profiles and the dynamic process of settling, or its converse, creaming, are modeled. Equilibrium profiles are found to be in perfect agreement with experiments. Our model reconciles two apparently contradicting points of view about buoyancy, thereby resolving a long-lived paradox about the correct choice of the buoyant density. On the one hand, the buoyancy force follows necessarily from the suspension density, as it relates to the hydrostatic pressure gradient. On the other hand, sedimentation profiles of colloidal suspensions can be calculated directly using the fluid density as apparent buoyant density in colloidal systems in sedimentation–diffusion equilibrium (SDE) as a result of balancing gravitational and thermodynamic forces. Surprisingly, this balance also holds in multicomponent mixtures. This analysis resolves the ongoing debate of the correct choice of buoyant density (fluid or suspension): both approaches can be used in their own domain. We present calculations of equilibrium sedimentation profiles and dynamic sedimentation that show the consequences of these insights. In bidisperse mixtures of colloids, particles with a lower mass density than the homogeneous suspension will first cream and then settle, whereas particles with a suspension-matched mass density form transient, bimodal particle distributions during sedimentation, which disappear when equilibrium is reached. In all these cases, the centers of the distributions of the particles with the lowest mass density of the two, regardless of their actual mass, will be located in equilibrium above the so-called isopycnic point, a natural consequence of their hard-sphere interactions. We include these interactions using the Boublik–Mansoori–Carnahan–Starling–Leland (BMCSL) equation of state. Finally, we demonstrate that our model is not limited to hard spheres, by extending it to charged spherical particles, and to dumbbells, trimers and short chains of connected beads.
Original languageEnglish
Article number075101
JournalJournal of Physics-Condensed Matter
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 2014


  • density gradient centrifugation
  • macroscopic electric-field
  • screened charged colloids
  • equation-of-state
  • hard-spheres
  • analytical ultracentrifugation
  • diffusion equilibrium
  • relative motion
  • binary-mixtures
  • fluidized-beds

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