Discover the most talked about and latest scientific content & concepts.

Concept: Liquids


A water drop on a superhydrophobic surface that is pinned by wire loops can be reproducibly cut without formation of satellite droplets. Drops placed on low-density polyethylene surfaces and Teflon-coated glass slides were cut with superhydrophobic knives of low-density polyethylene and treated copper or zinc sheets, respectively. Distortion of drop shape by the superhydrophobic knife enables a clean break. The driving force for droplet formation arises from the lower surface free energy for two separate drops, and it is modeled as a 2-D system. An estimate of the free energy change serves to guide when droplets will form based on the variation of drop volume, loop spacing and knife depth. Combining the cutting process with an electrofocusing driving force could enable a reproducible biomolecular separation without troubling satellite drop formation.

Concepts: Energy, Liquid, Surface tension, Drop, Gibbs free energy, Rainbow, Liquids, Globule


The coffee-ring effect, ubiquitously present in the drying process of aqueous droplets, impedes the performance of a myriad of applications involving precipitation of particle suspensions in evaporating liquids on solid surfaces, such as liquid biopsy combinational analysis, microarray fabrication, and ink-jet printing, to name a few. We invented the methodology of laser-induced differential evaporation to remove the coffee-ring effect. Without any additives to the liquid or any morphology modifications of the solid surface the liquid rests on, we have eliminated the coffee-ring effect by engineering the liquid evaporation profile with a CO2laser irradiating the apex of the droplets. The method of laser-induced differential evaporation transitions particle deposition patterns from coffee-ring patterns to central-peak patterns, bringing all particles (e.g. fluorescent double strand DNAs) in the droplet to a designated area of 100 μm diameter without leaving any stains outside. The technique also moves the drying process from the constant contact radius (CCR) mode to the constant contact angle (CCA) mode. Physical mechanisms of this method were experimentally studied by internal flow tracking and surface evaporation flux mapping, and theoretically investigated by development of an analytical model.

Concepts: Water, Liquid, Surface tension, Drop, Drying, Surface, Evaporation, Liquids


Controlling the wetting behaviour of liquids on surfaces is important for a variety of industrial applications such as water-repellent coatings and lubrication. Liquid behaviour on a surface can range from complete spreading, as in the ‘tears of wine’ effect, to minimal wetting as observed on a superhydrophobic lotus leaf. Controlling droplet movement is important in microfluidic liquid handling, on self-cleaning surfaces and in heat transfer. Droplet motion can be achieved by gradients of surface energy. However, existing techniques require either a large gradient or a carefully prepared surface to overcome the effects of contact line pinning, which usually limit droplet motion. Here we show that two-component droplets of well-chosen miscible liquids such as propylene glycol and water deposited on clean glass are not subject to pinning and cause the motion of neighbouring droplets over a distance. Unlike the canonical predictions for these liquids on a high-energy surface, these droplets do not spread completely but exhibit an apparent contact angle. We demonstrate experimentally and analytically that these droplets are stabilized by evaporation-induced surface tension gradients and that they move in response to the vapour emitted by neighbouring droplets. Our fundamental understanding of this robust system enabled us to construct a wide variety of autonomous fluidic machines out of everyday materials.

Concepts: Water, Liquid, Wetting, Surface tension, Drop, Contact angle, Liquids, Sessile drop technique


Wetting and dewetting are both fundamental modes of motion of liquids on solid surfaces. They are critically important for processes in biology, chemistry, and engineering, such as drying, coating, and lubrication. However, recent progress in wetting, which has led to new fields such as superhydrophobicity and liquid marbles, has not been matched by dewetting. A significant problem has been the inability to study the model system of a uniform film dewetting from a nonwetting surface to a single macroscopic droplet-a barrier that does not exist for the reverse wetting process of a droplet spreading into a film. We report the dewetting of a dielectrophoresis-induced film into a single equilibrium droplet. The emergent picture of the full dewetting dynamics is of an initial regime, where a liquid rim recedes at constant speed and constant dynamic contact angle, followed by a relatively short exponential relaxation of a spherical cap shape. This sharply contrasts with the reverse wetting process, where a spreading droplet follows a smooth sequence of spherical cap shapes. Complementary numerical simulations and a hydrodynamic model reveal a local dewetting mechanism driven by the equilibrium contact angle, where contact line slip dominates the dewetting dynamics. Our conclusions can be used to understand a wide variety of processes involving liquid dewetting, such as drop rebound, condensation, and evaporation. In overcoming the barrier to studying single film-to-droplet dewetting, our results provide new approaches to fluid manipulation and uses of dewetting, such as inducing films of prescribed initial shapes and slip-controlled liquid retraction.

Concepts: Fluid dynamics, Fluid mechanics, Liquid, Wetting, Surface tension, Drop, Contact angle, Liquids


Microfluidic chips provide unparalleled control over droplets and jets, which have advanced all natural sciences. However, microfluidic applications could be vastly expanded by increasing the per-channel throughput and directly exploiting the output of chips for rapid additive manufacturing. We unlock these features with in-air microfluidics, a new chip-free platform to manipulate microscale liquid streams in the air. By controlling the composition and in-air impact of liquid microjets by surface tension-driven encapsulation, we fabricate monodisperse emulsions, particles, and fibers with diameters of 20 to 300 μm at rates that are 10 to 100 times higher than chip-based droplet microfluidics. Furthermore, in-air microfluidics uniquely enables module-based production of three-dimensional (3D) multiscale (bio)materials in one step because droplets are partially solidified in-flight and can immediately be printed onto a substrate. In-air microfluidics is cytocompatible, as demonstrated by additive manufacturing of 3D modular constructs with tailored microenvironments for multiple cell types. Its in-line control, high throughput and resolution, and cytocompatibility make in-air microfluidics a versatile platform technology for science, industry, and health care.

Concepts: Science, Colloid, Liquid, Surface tension, Drop, Microfluidics, Liquids, Lab-on-a-chip


This paper describes a facile method for the preparation of porous gelatin beads with uniform pore sizes using a simple fluidic device and their application as supporting materials for cell culture. An aqueous gelatin droplet containing many uniform toluene droplets, produced in the fluidic device, is dropped into liquid nitrogen for instant freezing and the small toluene droplets evolve into pores in the gelatin beads after removal of toluene and then freeze-drying. The porous gelatin beads exhibit a uniform pore size and monodisperse diameter as well as large open pores at the surface. Fluorescence microscopy images of fibroblast-loaded gelatin beads confirm the attachment and proliferation of the cells throughout the porous gelatin beads.

Concepts: Protein, Cell biology, Microscope, Liquid, Surface tension, Drop, Liquids


Controllable liquid transport on surface is expected to occur by manipulating the gradient of surface tension/Laplace pressure and external stimuli, which has been intensively studied on solid or liquid interface. However, it still faces challenges of slow response rate, and uncontrollable transport speed and direction. Here, we demonstrate fast responsive and controllable liquid transport on a smart magnetic fluid/nanoarray interface, i.e., a composite interface, via modulation of an external magnetic field. The wettability of the composite interface to water instantaneously responds to gradient magnetic field due to the magnetically driven composite interface gradient roughness transition that takes place within a millisecond, which is at least 1 order of magnitude faster than that of other responsive surfaces. A water droplet can follow the motion of the gradient composite interface structure as it responds to the gradient magnetic field motion. Moreover, the water droplet transport direction can be controlled by modulating the motion direction of the gradient magnetic field. The composite interface can be used as a pump for the transport of immiscible liquids and other objects in the microchannel, which suggests a way to design smart interface materials and microfluidic devices.

Concepts: Magnetic field, Vector field, Magnet, Magnetism, Liquid, Surface tension, Drop, Liquids


Drop drying and deposition phenomena reveal a rich interplay of fundamental science and engineering, give rise to fascinating everyday effects (coffee rings), and influence technologies ranging from printing to genotyping. Here we investigate evaporation dynamics, morphology, and deposition patterns of drying lyotropic chromonic liquid crystal droplets. These drops differ from typical evaporating colloidal drops primarily due to their concentration-dependent isotropic, nematic, and columnar phases. Phase separation occurs during evaporation, and in the process creates surface tension gradients and significant density and viscosity variation within the droplet. As a result, the drying multiphase drops exhibit different convective currents, drop morphologies, and deposition patterns (coffee-rings).

Concepts: Fundamental physics concepts, Water, Liquid, Surface tension, Drop, Liquid crystal, Evaporation, Liquids


Droplet evaporation on solid surfaces is important in many applications including printing, micro-patterning and cooling. While seemingly simple, the configuration of evaporating droplets on solids is difficult to predict and control. This is because evaporation typically proceeds as a “stick-slip” sequence-a combination of pinning and de-pinning events dominated by static friction or “pinning”, caused by microscopic surface roughness. Here we show how smooth, pinning-free, solid surfaces of non-planar topography promote a different process called snap evaporation. During snap evaporation a droplet follows a reproducible sequence of configurations, consisting of a quasi-static phase-change controlled by mass diffusion interrupted by out-of-equilibrium snaps. Snaps are triggered by bifurcations of the equilibrium droplet shape mediated by the underlying non-planar solid. Because the evolution of droplets during snap evaporation is controlled by a smooth topography, and not by surface roughness, our ideas can inspire programmable surfaces that manage liquids in heat- and mass-transfer applications.

Concepts: Temperature, Liquid, Materials science, Friction, Road, Roughness, Liquids, Stick-slip phenomenon


Stable liquid and solid salts in the form of elusive hemiacetals, appended with fragrant alcohols, have been synthesised as pro-fragrances, and the controlled release of these fragrances, triggered by water, is demonstrated.

Concepts: Crystal, Water, Solid, Liquid, Surface tension, Gas, Oil, Liquids