Flow and Fracture in Drying Nanoparticle Suspensions
Drying aqueous suspensions of monodisperse silica nanoparticles can fracture in remarkable patterns. As the material solidifies, evenly spaced cracks invade from the drying surface, with individual cracks undergoing intermittent motion. We show that the growth of cracks is limited by the advancement of the compaction front, which is governed by a balance of evaporation and flow of fluid at the drying surface. Surprisingly, the macroscopic dynamics of drying show signatures of molecular-scale fluid effects.