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Phys Rev E Stat Nonlin Soft Matter Phys. 2003 Mar;67(3 Pt 1):031708. Epub 2003 Mar 28.

Measuring the nematic order of suspensions of colloidal fd virus by x-ray diffraction and optical birefringence.

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Complex Fluids Group, Department of Physics, Brandeis University, Waltham, Massachusetts 02454, USA.


The orientational distribution function of the nematic phase of suspensions of the semiflexible rodlike virus fd is measured by x-ray diffraction as a function of concentration and ionic strength. X-ray diffraction from a single-domain nematic phase of fd is influenced by interparticle correlations at low angle, while only intraparticle scatter contributes at high angle. Consequently, the angular distribution of the scattered intensity arises from only the single-particle orientational distribution function at high angle but it also includes spatial and orientational correlations at low angle. Experimental measurements of the orientational distribution function from both the interparticle (structure factor) and intraparticle (form factor) scattering were made to test whether the correlations present in interparticle scatter influence the measurement of the single-particle orientational distribution function. It was found that the two types of scatter yield consistent values for the nematic order parameter. It was also found that x-ray diffraction is insensitive to the orientational distribution function's precise form, and the measured angular intensity distribution is described equally well by both Onsager's trial function and a Gaussian. At high ionic strength, the order parameter S of the nematic phase coexisting with the isotropic phase approaches theoretical predictions for long semiflexible rods S=0.55, but deviations from theory increase with decreasing ionic strength. The concentration dependence of the nematic order parameter also better agrees with theoretical predictions at high ionic strength indicating that electrostatic interactions have a measurable effect on the nematic order parameter. The x-ray order parameters are shown to be proportional to the measured birefringence, and the saturation birefringence of fd is determined enabling a simple, inexpensive way to measure the order parameter. Additionally, the spatial ordering of nematic fd was probed. Measurements of the nematic structure factor revealed a single large peak in contrast to nematics of rigid rods.


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