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Phys Rev E Stat Nonlin Soft Matter Phys. 2001 Mar;63(3 Pt 1):031503. Epub 2001 Feb 27.

Novel phases and reentrant melting of two-dimensional colloidal crystals.

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Department of Physics, University of Colorado, Boulder, Colorado 80309, USA.


We investigate two-dimensional (2D) melting in the presence of a one-dimensional (1D) periodic potential as, for example, realized in recent experiments on 2D colloids subjected to two interfering laser beams. The topology of the phase diagram is found to depend primarily on two factors: the relative orientation of the 2D crystal and the periodic potential troughs, which selects a set of Bragg planes running parallel to the troughs, and the commensurability ratio p=a(')/d of the spacing a(') between these Bragg planes to the period d of the periodic potential. The complexity of the phase diagram increases with the magnitude of the commensurabilty ratio p. Rich phase diagrams, with "modulated liquid," "floating," and "locked floating" solid and smectic phases are found. Phase transitions between these phases fall into two broad universality classes, roughening and melting, driven by the proliferation of discommensuration walls and dislocations, respectively. We discuss correlation functions and the static structure factor in these phases, and make detailed predictions about the universal features close to the phase boundaries. We predict that for charged systems with highly screened short-range interactions, these melting transitions are generically reentrant as a function of the strength of the periodic potential, a prediction that is in accord with recent 2D colloid experiments. Implications of our results for future experiments are also discussed.

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