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Concept: Surface tension


Wettability is the affinity of a liquid for a solid surface. For energetic reasons, macroscopic drops of liquid form nearly spherical caps. The degree of wettability is then captured by the contact angle where the liquid-vapor interface meets the solid-liquid interface. As droplet volumes shrink to the scale of attoliters, however, surface interactions become significant, and droplets assume distorted shapes. In this regime, the contact angle becomes ambiguous, and a scalable metric for quantifying wettability is needed, especially given the emergence of technologies exploiting liquid-solid interactions at the nanoscale. Here we combine nanoscale experiments with molecular-level simulation to study the breakdown of spherical droplet shapes at small length scales. We demonstrate how measured droplet topographies increasingly reveal non-spherical features as volumes shrink. Ultimately, the nanoscale droplets flatten out to form layer-like molecular assemblies at the solid surface. For the lack of an identifiable contact angle at small scales, we introduce a droplet’s adsorption energy density as a new metric for a liquid’s affinity for a surface. We discover that extrapolating the macroscopic idealization of a drop to the nanoscale, though it does not geometrically resemble a realistic droplet, can nonetheless recover its adsorption energy if line tension is included.

Concepts: Fundamental physics concepts, Density, Adsorption, Liquid, Wetting, Surface tension, Drop, Angle


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


Creating surfaces capable of resisting liquid-mediated adhesion is extremely difficult due to the strong capillary forces that exist between surfaces. Land snails use this to adhere to and traverse across almost any type of solid surface of any orientation (horizontal, vertical or inverted), texture (smooth, rough or granular) or wetting property (hydrophilic or hydrophobic) via a layer of mucus. However, the wetting properties that enable snails to generate strong temporary attachment and the effectiveness of this adhesive locomotion on modern super-slippy superhydrophobic surfaces are unclear. Here we report that snail adhesion overcomes a wide range of these microscale and nanoscale topographically structured non-stick surfaces. For the one surface which we found to be snail resistant, we show that the effect is correlated with the wetting response of the surface to a weak surfactant. Our results elucidate some critical wetting factors for the design of anti-adhesive and bio-adhesion resistant surfaces.

Concepts: Liquid, Wetting, Surface tension, Surface, Adhesion, Snail, Land snail


Advancing and receding contact angles of water, formamide and diiodomethane were measured on 1,2-dipalmitoyl-sn-glycero-3-phosphocholine (DPPC) layers deposited on three different solid supports-glass, mica and poly(methyl methacrylate). Up to five statistical monolayers were deposited on the surfaces by spreading DPPC solution. It was found that even on five statistical DPPC monolayers, the hysteresis of a given liquid depends on the kind of solid support. Also on the same solid support the contact angle hysteresis is different for each probe liquid used. The AFM images show that the heights of roughness of the DPPC films cannot be the primary cause of the observed hysteresis because the heights are too small to cause the observed hystereses. It is believed that the hysteresis is due to the liquid film present right behind the three-phase solid surface/liquid drop/gas (vapour) contact line and the presence of Derjaguin pressure. The value of contact angle hysteresis depends on both the solid surface and liquid properties as well as on intermolecular interactions between them.

Concepts: Water, Liquid, Surface tension, Gas, Surface, Angle, Hysteresis, Contact angle


In this paper, polyethyleneterephthalate (PET) films with and without plasma pretreatment were modified by atomic layer deposition (ALD) and plasma-assisted atomic layer deposition (PA-ALD). It demonstrates that the Al2O3 films are successfully deposited onto the surface of PET films. The cracks formed on the deposited Al2O3 films in the ALD, plasma pretreated ALD, and PA-ALD were attributed to the energetic ion bombardment in plasmas. The surface wettability in terms of water contact angle shows that the deposited Al2O3 layer can enhance the wetting property of modified PET surface. Further characterizations of the Al2O3 films suggest that the elevated density of hydroxyl -OH group improve the initial growth of ALD deposition. Chemical composition of the Al2O3-coated PET film was characterized by X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy, which shows that the content of C 1s reduces with the growing of O 1s in the Al2O3-coated PET films, and the introduction of plasma in the ALD process helps the normal growth of Al2O3 on PET in PA-ALD.

Concepts: Spectroscopy, Wetting, Surface tension, X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy, Angle, Contact angle, Sessile drop technique, Atomic layer deposition


An essential element in the web-trap architecture, the capture silk spun by ecribellate orb spiders consists of glue droplets sitting astride a silk filament. Mechanically this thread presents a mixed solid-liquid behavior unknown to date. Under extension, capture silk behaves as a particularly stretchy solid, owing to its molecular nanosprings, but it totally switches behavior in compression to now become liquid-like: It shrinks with no apparent limit while exerting a constant tension. Here, we unravel the physics underpinning the unique behavior of this “liquid wire” and demonstrate that its mechanical response originates in the shape-switching of the silk filament induced by buckling within the droplets. Learning from this natural example of geometry and mechanics, we manufactured programmable liquid wires that present previously unidentified pathways for the design of new hybrid solid-liquid materials.

Concepts: Calculus, Liquid, Surface tension, Arachnid, Spider silk, Spider, Wire, Mechanical


Since its discovery, the wetting transparency of graphene, the transmission of the substrate wetting property over graphene coating, has gained significant attention due to its versatility for potential applications. Yet, there have been debates on the interpretation and validity of the wetting transparency. Here, we present a theory taking two previously disregarded factors into account and elucidate the origin of the partial wetting transparency. We show that the liquid bulk modulus is crucial to accurately calculate the van der Waals interactions between the liquid and the surface, and that various wetting states on rough surfaces must be considered to understand a wide range of contact angle measurements that cannot be fitted with a theory considering the flat surface. In addition, we reveal that the wetting characteristic of the substrate almost vanishes when covered by any coating as thick as graphene double layers. Our findings reveal a more complete picture of the wetting transparency of graphene as well as other atomically thin coatings, and can be applied to study various surface engineering problems requiring wettability-tuning.

Concepts: Van der Waals force, Wetting, Surface tension, Coating, Surface, Angle, Young's modulus, Contact angle


We investigate the influences of expansion-contraction microchannels on droplet breakup in capillary microfluidic devices. With variations in channel dimension, local shear stresses at the injection nozzle and focusing orifice vary, significantly impacting flow behavior including droplet breakup locations and breakup modes. We observe transition of droplet breakup location from focusing orifice to injection nozzle, and three distinct types of recently-reported tip-multi-breaking modes. By balancing local shear stresses and interfacial tension effects, we determine the critical condition for breakup location transition, and characterize the tip-multi-breaking mode quantitatively. In addition, we identify the mechanism responsible for the periodic oscillation of inner fluid tip in tip-multi-breaking mode. Our results offer fundamental understanding of two-phase flow behaviors in expansion-contraction microstructures, and would benefit droplet generation, manipulation and design of microfluidic devices.

Concepts: Psychology, Fluid dynamics, Fluid mechanics, Viscosity, Liquid, Surface tension, Shear stress, Microfluidics


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


Knee osteoarthritis affects more than 250 million people and is a leading contributor to disability worldwide.(1) Persuasive evidence from randomized, controlled trials indicates that arthroscopic débridement, lavage, or both are no more effective than sham surgery and nonoperative alternatives for symptomatic knee osteoarthritis.(2),(3) Nevertheless, arthroscopic surgery is often still performed. A common justification for arthroscopic surgery is the presence of symptoms due to mechanical factors. These symptoms, such as locking or clicking or acute pain localized to one joint, are generally regarded as arising from a torn meniscus. However, asymptomatic meniscal tears are highly prevalent among people with knee . . .

Concepts: Randomized controlled trial, Greek loanwords, Knee, Anterior cruciate ligament, Joint, Surface tension, Arthroscopy, Tear of meniscus