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Evaporation-driven self-assembly of binary and ternary colloidal polymer nanocomposites for abrasion resistant applications

Tinkler, James D., Scacchi, Alberto, Kothari, Harsh R., Tulliver, Hanna, Argaiz, Maialen, Archer, Andrew J., Martín-Fabiani, Ignacio
Journal of colloid and interface science 2021 v.581 pp. 729-740
abrasion resistance, atomic force microscopy, coatings, dispersions, drying, electrostatic interactions, energy-dispersive X-ray analysis, evaporation rate, hardness, latex, molecular dynamics, polymer nanocomposites, silica, solvents, spatial distribution
We harness the self-assembly of aqueous binary latex/silica particle blends during drying to fabricate films segregated by size in the vertical direction. We report for the first time the experimental drying of ternary colloidal dispersions and demonstrate how a ternary film containing additional small latex particles results in improved surface stability and abrasion resistance compared with a binary film. Through atomic force microscopy (AFM) and energy-dispersive X-ray spectroscopy (EDX), we show that the vertical distribution of filler particles and the surface morphologies of the films can be controlled by altering the evaporation rate and silica volume fraction. We report the formation of various silica superstructures at the film surface, which we attribute to a combination of diffusiophoresis and electrostatic interactions between particles. Brownian dynamics simulations of the final stages of solvent evaporation provide further evidence for this formation mechanism. We show how an additional small latex particle population results in an increased abrasion resistance of the film without altering its morphology or hardness. Our work provides a method to produce water-based coatings with enhanced abrasion resistance as well as valuable insights into the mechanisms behind the formation of colloidal superstructures.