We study gel formation in a mixture of equally-sized oppositely charged colloids both experimentally and by means of computer simulations. Both the experiments and the simulations show that the mechanism by which a gel is formed from a dilute, homogeneous suspension is an interrupted gas-liquid phase separation. Furthermore, we use Brownian dynamics simulations to study the relation between gel formation and the equilibrium phase diagram. We find that, regardless of the interaction range, an interrupted liquid-gas phase separation is observed as the system is quenched into a state point where the gas-liquid separation is metastable. The structure of the gel formed in our experiments compares well with that of a simulated gel, indicating that gravity has only a minor influence on the local structure of this type of gel. This is supported by the experimental evidence that gels squeezed or stretched by gravity have similar structures, as well as by the fact that gels do not collapse as readily as in the case of colloid-polymer mixtures. Finally, we check whether or not crystallites are formed in the gel branches; we find crystalline domains for the longer ranged interactions and for moderate quenches to the metastable gas-liquid spinodal regime
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