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Experimental observations of non-Gaussian behavior and stringlike cooperative dynamics in concentrated quasi-two-dimensional colloidal liquids.

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Department of Chemistry and Materials Science Institute, University of Oregon, Eugene, Oregon 97403, USA.


We report, from direct observation of particle trajectories as a function of time, the presence of stringlike cooperative motion in a quasi-two-dimensional liquid. We have used digital video microscopy to study the equilibrium dynamics of suspensions of sterically stabilized uncharged poly(methylmethacrylate) spheres confined in a thin glass cell. Our experiments reveal the existence, in semidilute and dense liquid states, of a transition in the qualitative dynamical behavior of the system. At short times particles undergo unhindered Brownian motion, at intermediate times they undergo uncorrelated binary collisions, and at long times these one-particle self-diffusive modes are coupled to collective longitudinal acoustic modes of the fluid, the signature of which is local fluctuating domains of enhanced particle mobility. We study the properties of these domains by examining the density dependence of the van Hove self-correlation function and its deviation from Gaussian behavior. We observe that periods of non-Gaussian behavior correlate precisely with the timing of events involved in the relaxation of "caged" particles and their nearest neighbors. In contrast with relaxation processes in supercooled liquids, the lifetime of dynamical heterogeneities in a dissipative colloidal suspension is found to shift towards shorter time scales with increasing particle density. During time periods for which a quasi-two-dimensional system follows Gaussian behavior, we observe that, as predicted by Cichocki and Felderhof [J. Phys. Condens. Matter 6, 7287 (1994)], the time dependence of the evolution of the effective diffusion coefficient from its short time to its long time value has the form (ln t)/t. This last finding is true for all observed particle densities. To our knowledge, these results are the first experimental verification of the existence of microscopic cooperativity and the predicted temporal evolution of the diffusion coefficient for Brownian motion in concentrated quasi-two-dimensional liquids.

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