Fast evaporation of spreading droplets of colloidal suspensions

Kara L. Maki, Satish Kumar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

121 Scopus citations


When a coffee droplet dries on a countertop, a dark ring of coffee solute is left behind, a phenomenon often referred to as the coffee-ring effect. A closely related yet less-well-explored phenomenon is the formation of a layer of particles, or skin, at the surface of the droplet during drying. In this work, we explore the behavior of a mathematical model that can qualitatively describe both phenomena. We consider a thin axisymmetric droplet of a colloidal suspension on a horizontal substrate undergoing spreading and evaporation. In contrast to prior work, precursor films (rather than pinned contact lines) are present at the droplet edge, and evaporation is assumed to be limited by how quickly molecules can transfer out of the liquid phase (rather than by how quickly they can diffuse through the gas phase). The lubrication approximation is applied to simplify the mass and momentum conservation equations, and the colloidal particles are allowed to influence the droplet rheology through their effect on the viscosity. By describing the transport of the colloidal particles with the full convection-diffusion equation, we are able to capture depthwise gradients in particle concentration and thus describe skin formation, a feature neglected in prior models of droplet evaporation. The highly coupled model equations are solved for a range of problem parameters using a finite-difference scheme based on a moving overset grid. The presence of evaporation and a large particle Peclet number leads to the accumulation of particles at the liquid-air interface. Whereas capillarity creates a flow that drives particles to the droplet edge to produce a coffee ring, Marangoni flows can compete with this and promote skin formation. Increases in viscosity due to particle concentration slow down droplet dynamics and can lead to a reduction in the spreading rate.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)11347-11363
Number of pages17
Issue number18
StatePublished - Sep 20 2011


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