Cracking in Drying Colloidal Films
It has long been known that thick films of colloidal dispersions such as wet clays, paints, and coatings crack under drying. Although capillary stresses generated during drying have been recently identified as the cause for cracking, the existence of a maximum crack-free film thickness that depends on particle size, rigidity, and packing has not been understood. Here, we identify two distinct regimes for crack-free films based on the magnitude of compressive strain at the maximum attainable capillary pressure and show remarkable agreement of measurements with our theory. We anticipate our results to not only form the basis for design of coating formulations for the paints, coatings, and ceramics industry but also assist in the production of crack-free photonic band gap crystals.