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

Concept: Wetting


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


Superoleophobic surfaces are of interest for anti-fouling, self-cleaning, anti-smudge, low-drag, anti-fog, and oil-water separation applications. Current bioinspired surfaces are of limited use due to a lack of mechanical durability. A so-called layer-by-layer approach, involving charged species with electrostatic interactions between layers, can provide the flexibility needed to improve adhesion to the substrate while providing a low surface tension coating at the air interface. In this work, a polyelectrolyte binder, SiO2 nanoparticles, and a fluorosurfactant are spray deposited separately to create a durable, superoleophobic coating. Polydiallyldimethylammonium chloride (PDDA) polyelectrolyte was complexed with a fluorosurfactant layer (FL), which provides oil repellency while being hydrophilic. This oleophobic/superhydrophilic behavior was enhanced through the use of roughening with SiO2 particles resulting in a superoleophobic coating with hexadecane contact angles exceeding 155° and tilt angles of less than 4°. The coating is also superhydrophilic, which is desirable for oil-water separation applications. The durability of these coatings was examined through the use of micro- and macrowear experiments. These coatings currently display characteristics of transparency. Fabrication of these coatings via the layer-by-layer technique results in superoleophobic surfaces displaying improved durability compared to existing work where either the durability or the oil-repellency is compromised.

Concepts: Electric charge, Improve, Layer, Wetting, Coating, Surface, Mechanical, PolyDADMAC


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


The aim of this study was to develop an immediate-release pellet formulation with improved drug dissolution and adsorption. Carbamazepine, a poorly water-soluble drug, was adsorbed into mesoporous silica (SBA-15-CBZ) via a wetness impregnation method and then processed by extrusion/spheronization into pellets. Physicochemical characterization of the preparation was carried out by scanning electron microscopy, transmission electron microscopy, nitrogen adsorption, small-angle and wide-angle x-ray diffraction, and differential scanning calorimetry. Flowability and wettability of the drug-loaded silica powder were evaluated by bulk and tapped density and by the angle of repose and contact angle, respectively. The drug-loaded silica powder was formulated into pellets to improve flowability.

Concepts: Electron, X-ray, Adsorption, Wetting, Materials science, Scientific techniques, Transmission electron microscopy, Scanning electron microscope


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


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


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


Since the pioneering prediction of surface melting by Michael Faraday, it has been widely accepted that thin water layers, called quasi-liquid layers (QLLs), homogeneously and completely wet ice surfaces. Contrary to this conventional wisdom, here we both theoretically and experimentally demonstrate that QLLs have more than two wetting states and that there is a first-order wetting transition between them. Furthermore, we find that QLLs are born not only under supersaturated conditions, as recently reported, but also at undersaturation, but QLLs are absent at equilibrium. This means that QLLs are a metastable transient state formed through vapor growth and sublimation of ice, casting a serious doubt on the conventional understanding presupposing the spontaneous formation of QLLs in ice-vapor equilibrium. We propose a simple but general physical model that consistently explains these aspects of surface melting and QLLs. Our model shows that a unique interfacial potential solely controls both the wetting and thermodynamic behavior of QLLs.

Concepts: Fundamental physics concepts, Water, Ice, Thermodynamics, Liquid, Wetting, James Clerk Maxwell, Wetting transition


Superhydrophobic and superoleophobic surfaces have so far been made by roughening a hydrophobic material. However, no surfaces were able to repel extremely-low-energy liquids such as fluorinated solvents, which completely wet even the most hydrophobic material. We show how roughness alone, if made of a specific doubly reentrant structure that enables very low liquid-solid contact fraction, can render the surface of any material superrepellent. Starting from a completely wettable material (silica), we micro- and nanostructure its surface to make it superomniphobic and bounce off all available liquids, including perfluorohexane. The same superomniphobicity is further confirmed with identical surfaces of a metal and a polymer. Free of any hydrophobic coating, the superomniphobic silica surface also withstands temperatures over 1000°C and resists biofouling.

Concepts: Oxygen, Adsorption, Liquid, Wetting, Surface tension, Gas, Surface, Fluorocarbon


Dynamic polarisation of tumour cells is essential for metastasis. While the role of polarisation during dedifferentiation and migration is well established, polarisation of metastasising tumour cells during phases of detachment has not been investigated. Here we identify and characterise a type of polarisation maintained by single cells in liquid phase termed single-cell (sc) polarity and investigate its role during metastasis. We demonstrate that sc polarity is an inherent feature of cells from different tumour entities that is observed in circulating tumour cells in patients. Functionally, we propose that the sc pole is directly involved in early attachment, thereby affecting adhesion, transmigration and metastasis. In vivo, the metastatic capacity of cell lines correlates with the extent of sc polarisation. By manipulating sc polarity regulators and by generic depolarisation, we show that sc polarity prior to migration affects transmigration and metastasis in vitro and in vivo.

Concepts: Cancer, Metastasis, Oncology, In vivo, Cell culture, Cell wall, In vitro, Wetting