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Linear models for colloidal electrostatic interactions have long proved useful for explaining the qualitative behavior of charge-stabilized suspensions. Many of these properties, after all, seem to be quite insensitive to details of the pair potential. The present study demonstrates that linear models for colloidal interactions fail to explain the elastic properties of strongly interacting charge-stabilized colloidal crystals. Hopefully, shortcomings in our understanding of colloidal electrostatic interactions will be addressed through continued theoretical efforts. A quantitative and analytically tractable description of many-body interactions in charge-stabilized suspensions should be sought with some urgency since quantitative and qualitative inadequacies in the linear theory may pose impediments to progress in fields as diverse as protein crystallization, self-assembly of colloidal photonic materials, and stabilization of industrial suspensions.

We would like to acknowledge enlightening conversations with Stuart Rice, Cherry Murray, Sunil Sinha, John Crocker, Tom Chou, Tom Witten, Yu Chen Shen, and David Oxtoby. This work was supported by the National Science Foundation through Grant No. DMR-9320378.

David G. Grier