How a dispersion of particulates suspended in a solvent dries into a solid coating often is more important to the final coating quality than even its composition. Essential properties like porosity, strength, gloss, particulate order, and concentration gradients are all determined by the way the particles come together as the coating dries. Cryogenic scanning electron microscopy (cryoSEM) is one of the most effective methods to directly visualize a drying coating during film formation. Using this method, the coating is frozen, arresting particulate motion and solidifying the sample so that it be imaged in an SEM.
In this thesis, the microstructure development of particulate coatings was explored with several case studies. First, the effect of drying conditions was determined on the collapse of hollow latex particles, which are inexpensive whiteners for paint. Using cryoSEM, it was found that collapse occurs during the last stages of drying and is most likely to occur at high drying temperatures, humidity, and with low binder concentration. From these results, a theoretical model was proposed for the collapse of a hollow latex particle. CryoSEM was also used to verify a theoretical model for the particulate concentration gradients that may develop in a coating during drying for various evaporation, sedimentation and particulate diffusion rates. This work created a simple drying map that will allow others to predict the character of a drying coating based on easily calculable parameters. Finally, the effect of temperature on the coalescence and cracking of latex coatings was explored. A new drying regime for latex coatings was identified, where partial coalescence of particles does not prevent cracking. Silica was shown to be an environmentally friendly additive for preventing crack formation in this regime.