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Many materials and biological systems in nature are suspensions composed of disks, such as clay, asphaltenes, and red blood cells. Despite their natural abundance and wide industrial application, disks are least studied compared to spheres and rods, due to the lack of model systems. In our research, disks at micro-scale were mass-produced with unprecedented uniformity in size and shape, and unique flexibility in the control of lateral size, lateral size polydispersity, shape, and aspect ratio (ξ = diameter/thickness). This dissertation focuses on two main areas: the study of the discotic colloidal liquid crystal phase transitions and the application of disk-like colloidal systems as Pickering emulsion and Pickering foam stabilizers. First, we engineered two discotic colloidal systems made from organic and inorganic materials. The former is made of α-eicosene, which is an alkene of 20 carbons. The latter is composed of nano-sheets from exfoliated zirconium phosphate (α-ZrP). Both discotic systems were used to experimentally investigate the liquid crystalline phase transitions (Isotropic-Nematic, Isotropic-Cubic and Isotropic-Columnar). Also, the nematic crystalline phase was studied in detail by embedding it in a translucent and thermo-sensitive hydrogel. This was possible since nematic textures could be formed instantly by ZrP nano-sheets due to their high diameter-thickness ratio. Second, we developed Pickering emulsions and Pickering foams stabilized by high-aspect-ratio nano-sheets. We have also demonstrated for the first time the fabrication of the thinnest amphiphilic Janus and Gemini nano-sheets, which are either surface- or edge-modified plates with a thickness at atomic scale. These nano-sheets were obtained by exfoliating α-ZrP crystals grafted with a coupling agent of hydrophobic molecules on their edges and outer surfaces. Extending this work, we studied crucial fundamental mechanisms that allow Pickering interfacial stabilization, including the effect on the adsorption properties of particle aspect ratio, concentration, and hydrophobicity. Our study is of great interest in the scientific community due to the difficulty in generating a discotic colloidal system of controllable parameters.
Mejia Mejia, Andres Fernando Fernando (2013). Discotic Colloids. Doctoral dissertation, Texas A & M University. Available electronically from