Capillary Wicking in Hierarchically Textured Copper Nanowire Arrays

Capillary wicking through homogeneous porous media remains challenging to simultaneously optimize due to the unique transport phenomena that occur at different length scales. This challenge may be overcome by introducing hierarchical porous media, which combine tailored morphologies across multiple length scales to design for the individual transport mechanisms. Here, we fabricate hierarchical nanowire arrays consisting of vertically aligned copper nanowires (∼100 to 1000 nm length scale) decorated with dense copper oxide nanostructures (∼10 to 100 nm length scale) to create unique property sets that include a large specific surface area, high rates of fluid delivery, and the structural flexibility of vertical arrays. These hierarchical nanowire arrays possess enhanced capillary wicking (<i>K</i>/<i>R</i><sub>eff</sub> = 0.004–0.023 μm) by utilizing hemispreading and are advantageous as evaporation surfaces. With the advent and acceleration of flexible electronics technologies, we measure the capillary properties of our freestanding hierarchical nanowire arrays installed on curved surfaces and observe comparable fluid delivery to flat arrays, showing the difference of 10–20%. The degree of effective inter-nanowire pore and porosity is shown to govern the capillary performance parameters, thereby this study provides the design strategy for capillary wicking materials with unique and tailored combinations of thermofluidic properties.