Soft core fluid in a quenched matrix of soft core particles: a mobile mixture in a model gel

We present a density-functional study of a binary phase-separating mixture of soft core particles immersed in a random matrix of quenched soft core particles of larger size. This is a model for a binary polymer mixture immersed in a cross-linked rigid polymer network. Using the replica "trick" for quenched-annealed mixtures we derive an explicit density functional theory that treats the quenched species on the level of its one-body density distribution. The relation to a set of effective external potentials acting on the annealed components is discussed. We relate matrix-induced condensation in bulk to the behavior of the mixture around a single large particle. The interfacial properties of the binary mixture at a surface of the quenched matrix display a rich interplay between capillary condensation inside the bulk matrix and wetting phenomena at the matrix surface. © 2006 The American Physical Society.