Buckling of drying droplets of colloidal suspensions

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Onset of Buckling in Drying Droplets of Colloidal Suspension

Authors: N. Tsapis, E. R. Dufresne, S. S. Sinha, C. S. Riera, J.W. Hutchinson, L. Mahadevan, and D. A. Weitz

Physical Review Letters 94, 018302 (2005)

Soft matter keywords

buckling, elastic shell, drying, sol-gel, Leidenfrost effect


By Tom Kodger


Abstract from the original paper

Minute concentrations of suspended particles can dramatically alter the behavior of a drying droplet. After a period of isotropic shrinkage, similar to droplets of a pure liquid, these droplets suddenly buckle like an elastic shell. While linear elasticity is able to describe the morphology of the buckled droplets, it fails to predict the onset of buckling. Instead, we find that buckling is coincident with a stress-induced fluid to solid transition in a shell of particles at a droplet’s surface, occurring when attractive capillary forces overcome stabilizing electrostatic forces between particles.

Practical Application of Research

Rapidly dried droplets which contain suspended colloids are found in several industrial areas, and probably in your home office (unless you use a laser printer). Spray drying where fine powders are made by the evaporation of aerosols have been used in the manufacture of foodstuffs, pharmaceuticals, polymers, and detergents.

Capillarity at Work

The authors use a water droplet with suspended colloidal particles, with no added ions; therefore the capillary length l= √(γ/ρ* g) ≈ 2.5mm at 100°C. To induce the evaporation the authors heat the droplet on a stainless steel surface uniformly heated to 200°C using the Leidenfrost effect (cerca 1756). This effect is familiar to anyone who has sprinkled water on a hot griddle to check the temperature where the fluid droplets do not wet the surfaces above about 150°C; rather they float on a thin layer of their own vapor (Fig. 1).

Fig. 1 - from Wikipedia.org


The droplets used are always less than the capillary length for water which ensures that they are spherical. Using the well known Surface Evolver mathematical modelling program, the simulated buckling droplets nicely resemble the experimental drops (Fig. 2).

Fig. 2 - from paper


Capillary forces drive the buckling to the shell when menisci form between the particles at the surface and the pressure inside becomes, 2*γ/rM. But here the shell response in viscoelastic. Therefore the authors note that the transition into the buckling regime must correspond to a crossover from the viscous to elastic regimes of the shell's rheology


The authors find a critical pressure for buckling by first determining the shell thickness. During the initial isotropic shrinking, the capillary forces are about ≈πa2δP. There force the force for buckling FB is ≈37pN and &asymp 120pN for 85nm and 1000nm suspended colloids. Most interestly