Confocal microscopy is used in the study of colloidal gels, glasses, and binary fluids. We measure the three-dimensional positions of colloidal particles with a precision of approximately 50 nm (a small fraction of each particle’s radius) and with a time resolution sufficient for tracking the thermal motions of several thousand particles at once. This information allows us to characterize the structure and the dynamics of these materials in qualitatively new ways, for example, by quantifying the topology of chains and clusters of particles as well as by measuring the spatial correlations between particles with high mobilities. We describe our experimental technique and describe measurements that complement the results of light scattering.
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