Los Alamos National Labs with logo 2021

Colloids give insights into new dynamic forms of matter

Driven colloids show how transitions between different phases of nonequilibrium states can occur.


Illustration showing colloids under external drive forming clogged or jammed states, similar to a traffic jam.

Colloids under external driving form a clogged or jammed state similar to that found in traffic jams and other systems that form dynamic states of matter when driven. The image shows a jammed state in which rightward moving colloidal particles (blue) block the motion of leftward moving colloidal particles (gold) and vice versa. Image courtesy of Soft Matter (cover page).

Colloids give insights into new dynamic forms of matter

Equilibrium thermodynamics and statistical mechanics provide an underlying foundation for understanding different equilibrium states of matter and the phase transitions that separate them.  One of the grand challenge problems in the physical sciences is to develop a similar framework for nonequilibrium systems to address problems such as the changes of materials under a load, transitions from flowing to jammed traffic, the self-organization of biological and social systems, or laminar to turbulent flow transitions.  Due to the high level of complexity in such systems, it is very difficult to identify distinct phases or even to determine proper methods for quantifying the behavior. 

Summary of full paper (pdf)