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Penn physicists undo the 'coffee ring effect'
Date:8/18/2011

PHILADELPHIA A team of University of Pennsylvania physicists has shown how to disrupt the "coffee ring effect" the ring-shaped stain of particles leftover after coffee drops evaporate by changing the particle shape. The discovery provides new tools for engineers to deposit uniform coatings.

The research was conducted by professor Arjun Yodh, director of the Laboratory for Research on the Structure of Matter; doctoral candidates Peter Yunker and Matthew Lohr; and postdoctoral fellow Tim Still, all of the department of Physics and Astronomy in Penn's School of Arts and Sciences.

Their research will be published in the journal Nature on August 18.

"The coffee ring effect is very common in everyday experience," Yunker said. "To avoid it, scientists have gone to great lengths designing paints and inks that produce an even coating upon evaporation. We found that the effect can be eliminated simply by changing the shape of the particle."

The edges of a water drop sitting on a table or a piece of paper, for example, are often "pinned" to the surface. This means that when the water evaporates, the drop can't shrink in circumference but instead flattens out. That flattening motion pushes water and anything suspended in it, such as coffee particles, to its edges. By the time the drop fully evaporates, most of the particles have reached the edge and are deposited on the surface, making a dark ring.

University of Chicago physicists Sidney Nagel, Thomas Witten and their colleagues wrote an influential paper about this process in 1997, which focused mainly on suspended spherical particles, but it was not until the Yodh team's recent experiments that the surprising role played by suspended particle shape was discovered.

Yodh's team used uniformly sized plastic particles in their experiments. These particles were initially spherical but could be stretched into varying degrees of eccentricity, to ensure
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Contact: Evan Lerner
elerner@upenn.edu
215-573-6604
University of Pennsylvania
Source:Eurekalert

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