Paper published Sep 3, 2015
link to journal; full text (PDF)
Colloidal particles in aqueous suspension generally sediment uniformly. By contrast, we found that suspensions of latex microspheres in polystyrene Petri dishes deviated sharply from the expected pattern when various objects were positioned immediately outside those dishes.
When small coin-like metal discs were positioned immediately beneath the Petri dish, the microspheres sedimented to a point just above those discs. Other materials, including glass and wood, produced similar results, though less pronounced. After the microspheres had sedimented, shifting the metal to another position beneath the dish caused the microspheres to follow.
Various control experiments ruled out trivial explanations. In concordance with earlier results, it appears that the infrared energy generated by the various materials draws microspheres, resulting in the unusual sedimentation patterns. The results have significant implications for the mechanism of sedimentation, particularly for the role of charge in that process.