In addition to containing spherical pigment particles, coatings usually contain plate-like clay particles. It is thought that these improve the opacity of the paint film by providing an efficient spacing of the pigment particles. This observation is counterintuitive, as suspensions of particles of different shapes and sizes tend to phase separate on increase of concentration. In order to clarify this matter a model colloidal system is studied here, with a sphere–plate diameter ratio similar to that found in paints. For dilute suspensions, small angle neutron scattering revealed that the addition of plates leads to enhanced density fluctuations of the spheres, in agreement with new theoretical predictions. On increasing the total colloid concentration the plates and spheres phase separate due to the disparity in their shape. This is in agreement with previous theoretical and experimental work on colloidal sphere–plate mixtures, where one particle acts as a depleting agent. The fact that no large scale phase separation is observed in coatings is ascribed to dynamic arrest in intimately mixed, or possibly micro-phase separated structures, at elevated concentration.

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Last edited: Friday September 10, 2010

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