Phase separation and the ‘coffee-ring’ effect in polymer–nanocrystal mixtures†
The coupling between the ‘coffee-ring’ effect and liquid–liquid phase separation is examined for ternary mixtures of solvent, polymer and semiconductor nanocrystal. Specifically, we study mixtures of toluene, polystyrene (PS) and colloidal silicon nanocrystals (SiNCs) using real-space imaging and spectroscopic techniques to resolve the kinetic morphology of the drying front for varied molecular weight of the PS. Our results demonstrate that the size of the polymer has a significant impact on both phase-separation and drying, and we relate these observations to simulations, measured and predicted binodal curves, and the observed shape of the flow field at the contact line. The results inform a deposition process that reduces the influence of drying instabilities for low-molecular-weight polymers while paving the way for more detailed and generic computational descriptions of drying instabilities in complex fluids.