Charged colloidal dispersions make up the basis of a broad range of industrial and commercial products, from paints to coatings and additives in cosmetics. During drying, an initially liquid dispersion of such particles is slowly concentrated into a solid, displaying a range of mechanical instabilities in response to highly variable internal pressures. Here we summarize the current appreciation of this process by pairing an advection-diffusion model of particle motion with a Poisson-Boltzmann cell model of inter-particle interactions, to predict the concentration gradients in a drying colloidal film. We then test these predictions with osmotic compression experiments on colloidal silica, and small-angle X-ray scattering experiments on silica dispersions drying in Hele-Shaw cells. Finally, we use the details of the microscopic physics at play in these dispersions to explore how two macroscopic mechanical instabilities-shear-banding and fracture-can be controlled.This article is part of the themed issue 'Patterning through instabilities in complex media: theory and applications.'
Keywords: colloids; drying; fracture; shear bands; small-angle X-ray scattering; solidification.
© 2017 The Author(s).