Langmuir, 2019, vol 35, 52, pp. 17103-17113
The yet virtually unexplored class of soft colloidal rods with a small aspect ratio is investigated and shown to exhibit a very rich phase and dynamic behavior, spanning from liquid to nearly melt state. Instead of the nematic order, these short and soft nanocylinders alter their organization with increasing concentration from isotropic liquid with random orientation to small domains with preferred local orientation and eventually a multidomain arrangement with a local orientational order. The latter gives rise to a kinetically suppressed state akin to structural glass with detectable terminal relaxation, which, on further increasing concentration, reveals features of hexagonally packed order as in ordered block copolymers. The respective dynamic response comprises four regimes, all above the overlapping concentration of 0.02 g/mL:(I) from 0.03 to 0.1 g/mol, the system undergoes a liquid-to-solidlike transition with a structural relaxation time that grows by 4 orders of magnitude. (II) From 0.1 to 0.2 g/mL, a dramatic slowing-down is observed and is accompanied by an evolution from isotropic to a multidomain structure. (III) Between 0.2 and 0.6 g/mol, the suspensions exhibit signatures of shell interpenetration and jamming, with the colloidal plateau modulus depending linearly on concentration. (IV) At 0.74 g/mL, in the densely jammed state, the viscoelastic signature of hexagonally packed cylinders from microphase-separated block copolymers is detected. These properties set short and soft nanocylinders apart from long colloidal rods (with a large aspect ratio) and provide insights for fundamentally understanding the physics in this intermediate soft colloidal regime and for tailoring the flow properties of nonspherical soft colloids.