Capillary Coatings: Flow and Drying Dynamics in Open Microchannels

Robert K. Lade, Krystopher S. Jochem, Christopher W. Macosko, Lorraine F. Francis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Capillary flow and drying of polymer solutions in open microchannels are explored over time scales spanning seven orders of magnitude: from capillary filling (10-3-10 s) to the formation of a dry thin film (a "capillary coating" 102-103 s). During capillary filling, drying-induced changes (increased solids content and viscosity) generate microscale pinning events that impede contact line motion. Three unique types of pinning are identified and characterized, each defined by the specific location(s) along the contact line at which pinning is induced. Drying is shown to ultimately pin the contact line permanently, and the associated total flow distances and times are revealed to be strong functions of channel width and drying rate. In general, lower drying rates coupled with intermediate channel widths are found to be most conducive to longer flow distances and times. After the advancing contact line permanently pins, internal flows driven by uneven evaporation rates continue to drive polymer to the contact line. This phenomenon promotes a local accumulation of solids and persists until all motion is arrested by drying. The effects of channel width and drying rate are investigated at each stage of this capillary coating process. These results are then applied to case studies of two functional inks commonly used in printed electronics fabrication: a PEDOT:PSS (poly(3,4-ethylenedioxythiophene)-poly(styrenesulfonate)) ink and a graphene ink. Although drying is shown to permanently arrest flow in both inks, both systems exhibit an increased resistance to pinning unexplained by mechanisms identified in aqueous polymer systems. Instead, arguments based on chemistry, particle size, and rheology are used to explain their novel behavior. These case studies provide insight into how functional inks can be better designed to optimize flow distances and maximize overall dry film uniformity in capillary coatings.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)7624-7639
Number of pages16
Issue number26
StatePublished - Jul 3 2018

How much support was provided by MRSEC?

  • Shared

Reporting period for MRSEC

  • Period 5

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

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