Control of Buckling in Colloidal Droplets during Evaporation-Induced Assembly of Nanoparticles

Micrometric grains of anisotropic morphology have been achieved by evaporation-induced self-assembly of silica nanoparticles. The roles of polymer concentration and its molecular weight in controlling the buckling behavior of drying droplets during assembly have been investigated. Buckled doughnut grains have been observed in the case of only silica colloid. Such buckling of the drying droplet could be arrested by attaching poly­(ethylene glycol) on the silica surface. The nature of buckling in the case of only silica as well as modified silica colloids has been explained in terms of theory of homogeneous elastic shell under capillary pressure. However, it has been observed that colloids, modified by polymer with relatively large molecular weight, gives rise to buckyball-type grains at higher concentration and could not be explained by the above theory. It has been demonstrated that the shell formed during drying of colloidal droplet in the presence of polymer becomes inhomogeneous due to the presence of soft polymer rich zones on the shell that act as buckling centers, resulting in buckyball-type grains.