Scientific Reports, 2017, vol 7, 1, pp. 17044
Colloidal glasses formed from hard spheres, nearly hard spheres, ellipsoids and platelets or their attractive variants, have been studied in great detail. Complementing and constraining theoretical approaches and simulations, the many different types of model systems have significantly advanced our understanding of the glass transition in general. Despite their early prediction, however, no experimental charged sphere glasses have been found at low density, where the competing process of crystallization prevails. We here report the formation of a transient amorphous solid formed from charged polymer spheres suspended in thoroughly deionized water at volume fractions of 0.0002–0.01. From optical experiments, we observe the presence of short-range order and an enhanced shear rigidity as compared to the stable polycrystalline solid of body centred cubic structure. On a density dependent time scale of hours to days, the amorphous solid transforms into this stable structure. We further present preliminary dynamic light scattering data showing the evolution of a second slow relaxation process possibly pointing to a dynamic heterogeneity known from other colloidal glasses and gels. We compare our findings to the predicted phase behaviour of charged sphere suspensions and discuss possible mechanisms for the formation of this peculiar type of colloidal glass.