Asymmetrical coffee rings from cellulose nanocrystals and prospects in art and design

Konrad W. Klockars, Noora E. Yau, Blaise L. Tardy, Johanna Majoinen, Tero Kämäräinen, Kati Miettunen, Elisa Boutonnet, Maryam Borghei, Jaana Beidler, Orlando J. Rojas

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

50 Scopus citations


Abstract: The iridescence displayed by films made from cellulose nanocrystals (CNCs) has long been the subject of fundamental research. This has expanded our understanding of colloidal self-assembly towards the development of advanced materials. However, the application of such findings is less reported for visual designs that exploit structural color. Aesthetic outputs are already in reach, but requires input from trend setters in the design and art industries. In this realm, the CNC-based iridescence uniquely offers broadband, multi-colored reflections through the “coffee ring” effect, which arises upon evaporation-induced self-assembly (EISA). Although this effect has been thoroughly studied in the context of axisymmetric patterns, complex geometries remain to be evaluated for large-scale implementation. This is central to the present efforts, where EISA of CNC suspensions occurred onto non-circular surfaces. We used orientation-dependent contact angle measurements, profilometry and fixed-light source photography to unveil the effect of asymmetric drying fluxes at sharp angles, between 30° and 90°, on CNC particle deposition and resulting color patterns. We also demonstrate the causality between increased capillary fluxes and deposition with the help of modelling via energy minimization of the suspension volume onto a given surface and using the diffusion equation to obtain the local concentration of water vapor during EISA. Lastly, we study the effect of background reflections as well as light and temperature resistance of CNC-based reflectors, both important for any deployment. The results from this multidisciplinary effort, involving applied design, art and colloid chemistry, point to the excellent prospects of CNC films for the development of structured and chromatic patterns. Graphical abstract: [Figure not available: see fulltext.].

Original languageBritish English
Pages (from-to)491-506
Number of pages16
Issue number1
StatePublished - 15 Jan 2019


  • Art and design
  • Cellulose nanocrystals
  • Coffee rings
  • Color fading
  • Iridescence


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