Modelling the evaporation of thin films of colloidal suspensions using dynamical density functional theory

Recent experiments have shown that various structures may be formed during the evaporative dewetting of thin films of colloidal suspensions. Nanoparticle deposits of strongly branched 'flower-like', labyrinthine and network structures are observed. They are caused by the different transport processes and the rich phase behaviour of the system. We develop a model for the system, based on a dynamical density functional theory, which reproduces these structures. The model is employed to determine the influences of the solvent evaporation and of the diffusion of the colloidal particles and of the liquid over the surface. Finally, we investigate the conditions needed for 'liquid–particle' phase separation to occur and discuss its effect on the self-organized nanostructures.