We investigate the dynamics of solidification of a charged colloidal dispersion using an original microfluidic technique referred to as micropervaporation. This technique exploits pervaporation within a microfluidic channel to extract the solvent of a dilute colloidal dispersion. Pervaporation concentrates the colloids in a
controlled way up to the tip of the channel until a wet solid made of closely packed colloids grows and invades the microfluidic channel.
For the charged dispersion under study, we however evidence a liquid to solid transition (LST) preceding the formation of the solid, owing to the presence of long-range electrostatic interactions. This LST is
associated with the nucleation and growth of domains confined in the channel. These domains are then compacted anisotropically up to forming a wet solid of closely packed colloids. This solid then invades the whole channel as in directional drying with a growth rate which depends on the microfluidic geometry. In the final steps of the solidification, we observed the occurrence of cracks and shear bands, the delamination of the wet solid from the channel walls, and its invasion by a receding air front. Interestingly, this air front follows specific patterns within the solid which reveal different microscopic colloidal organizations.
This work has been published in Langmuir (View online)