We investigate how colloidal particles self-assemble in confined and nonequilibrium systems, including particles trapped at liquid-liquid interfaces (e.g. emulsion droplets) and inside spherical containers. Although common in industrial formulations and fundamental condensed matter studies, these systems remain poorly understood, primarily because no existing experimental probes, including confocal microscopy, can yield real-space data with sufficiently fast acquisition times to resolve 3D dynamics. We use a powerful interferometric technique, Digital Holographic Microscopy (DHM), in concert with particle synthesis and algorithm development to overcome these limitations. Preliminary data show that the technique is capable of tracking several micrometer-sized colloidal particles with 30 nm spatial precision in all three dimensions on millisecond time scales. DHM may be able to yield the most complete physical picture to date of dynamics, interactions, and assembly in colloidal suspensions.

© 2008 Optical Society of America

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