When a spilled drop of coffee dries on a solid surface, it leaves a dense, ring-like deposit along the perimeter (Fig. 1a). The coffee—initially dispersed over the entire drop—becomes concentrated into a tiny fraction of it. Such ring deposits are common wherever drops containing dispersed solids evaporate on a surface, and they influence processes such as printing, washing and coating1,2,3,4,5. Ring deposits also provide a potential means to write or deposit a fine pattern onto a surface. Here we ascribe the characteristic pattern of the deposition to a form of capillary flow in which pinning of the contact line of the drying drop ensures that liquid evaporating from the edge is replenished by liquid from the interior. The resulting outward flow can carry virtually all the dispersed material to the edge. This mechanism predicts a distinctive power-law growth of the ring mass with time—a law independent of the particular substrate, carrier fluid or deposited solids. We have verified this law by microscopic observations of colloidal fluids.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution
Open Access articles citing this article.
Scientific Reports Open Access 30 June 2023
Communications Engineering Open Access 22 June 2023
Journal of Nanoparticle Research Open Access 06 June 2023
Subscribe to this journal
Receive 51 print issues and online access
$199.00 per year
only $3.90 per issue
Rent or buy this article
Prices vary by article type
Prices may be subject to local taxes which are calculated during checkout
Parisse, F. & Allain, C. Shape changes of colloidal suspension droplets during drying. J. Phys. II 6, 1111–1119 (1996).
El Bediwi, A. B., Kulnis, W. J., Luo, Y., Woodland, D. & Unertl, W. N. Distributions of latex particles deposited for water suspensions. Mater. Res. Soc. Symp. Proc. 372, 277–282 (1995).
Denkov, N. D. et al. Mechanism of formation of two-dimensional crystals from latex particles on substrates. Langmuir 8, 3183–3190 (1992).
Laden, P. (ed.) Chemistry and Technology of Water Based Inks(Blackie Academic & Professional, London, (1997)).
TAPPI New Printing Technologies Symposium 1996(TAPPI Press, Atlanta, (1996)).
Hisatake, K., Tanaka, S. & Aizawa, Y. Evaporation of water in a vessel. J. Appl. Phys. 73, 7395–7401 (1993).
Peiss, C. N. Evaporation of small water drops maintained at constant volume. J. Appl. Phys. 65, 5235–5237 (1989).
Maxwell, J. C. Scientific Papers Vol. 2(Cambridge, (1890)).
Jackson, J. D. Classical Electrodynamics2nd edn, 77 (Wiley, New York, (1975)).
Lide, D. R. (ed.) CRC Handbook of Physics and Chemistry77th edn, 6–8, 6–218 (Chemical Rubber Publishing Co., Boca Raton, FL, (1996)).
Crocker, J. C. & Grier, D. G. Methods of digital video microscopy for colloidal studies. J. Colloid Interface Sci. 179, 298–310 (1996).
We thank H. Li, X. Shi and M. Baildon for their early contributions to this project; J. Crocker, D. Grier and A. Marcus for sharing their expertise, their image analysis code and their facilities; and S. Garoff, L. Mahadevan, S. Esipov, R. Leheny, D. Mueth, E. Ehrichs, J. Knight, S. Blanton, N. Menon, J. Cina and L. Kadanoff for discussions. This work was supported by the NSF-MRSEC, NSF and DOE.
About this article
Cite this article
Deegan, R., Bakajin, O., Dupont, T. et al. Capillary flow as the cause of ring stains from dried liquid drops. Nature 389, 827–829 (1997). https://doi.org/10.1038/39827
This article is cited by
Photonic crystals with rainbow colors by centrifugation-assisted assembly of colloidal lignin nanoparticles
Nature Communications (2023)
Rational adjustment to interfacial interaction with carbonized polymer dots enabling efficient large-area perovskite light-emitting diodes
Light: Science & Applications (2023)
Nature Chemistry (2023)
Communications Engineering (2023)
Nature Reviews Materials (2023)