Drying of Complex Suspensions

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Entry by Leon Furchtgott, APP 225 Fall 2010.

Drying of Complex Suspensions" Lei Xu, Alexis Berges, Peter J. Lu, Andre R. Studart, Andrew B. Schofield, Hidekazu Oki,6 Simon Davies, and David A. Weitz, Phys. Rev. Lett. 104, 128303 (2010).


The authors investigate the 3D structure and drying dynamics of complex mixtures of emulsion droplets and colloidal particles, using confocal microscopy. Air invades and rapidly collapses large emulsion droplets, forcing their contents into the surrounding porous particle pack at a rate proportional to the square of the droplet radius. By contrast, small droplets do not collapse, but remain intact and are merely deformed.


Drying of suspensions of colloids is important in a lot of areas, from the coffee-ring effect to technologically important phenomena such as paint and cosmetics drying. This paper seeks to understand a slightly simplified version of these phenomena: the drying of a mixture of an emulsion and colloidal particles. Most emulsions scatter light significantly making them difficult to image; this paper gets around this challenge and resolves the 3D structure of the mixture using confocal microscopy.


The authors suspend colloidal spheres of PPMA with radius 1 micron in DHN. separately, they create an emulsion of an aqueous phase, comprising equal volumes of water and glycerol, and PGPR-90 surfactant in nonpolar DHN; a homogenizer creates polydisperse droplets from microns to tens of microns. They combine the particle suspension and emulsion to create a particle-droplet mixture. The particular components ensure that the refractive indices of all the components are matched to limit scattering. The authors can then image the entire 3D structure with confocal fluorescence microscopy with single-particle resolution (Figure 1).

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Discussion/Relation to Soft Matter