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Unidirectional Fast Growth and Forced Jumping of Stretched Droplets on Nanostructured Microporous Surfaces

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posted on 03.08.2016, 00:00 by Abulimiti Aili, Hongxia Li, Mohamed H. Alhosani, TieJun Zhang
Superhydrophobic nanostructured surfaces have demonstrated outstanding capability in energy and water applications by promoting dropwise condensation, where fast droplet growth and efficient condensate removal are two key parameters. However, these parameters remain contradictory. Although efficient droplet removal is easily obtained through coalescence jumping on uniform superhydrophobic surfaces, simultaneously achieving fast droplet growth is still challenging. Also, on such surfaces droplets can grow to larger sizes without restriction if there is no coalescence. In this work, we show that superhydrophobic nanostructured microporous surfaces can manipulate the droplet growth and jumping. Microporous surface morphology effectively enhances the growth of droplets in pores owing to large solid–liquid contact area. At low supersaturations, the upward growth rate (1–1.5 μm/s) of these droplets in pores is observed to be around 15–25 times that of the droplets outside the pores. Meanwhile, their top curvature radius increases relatively slowly (∼0.25 μm/s) due to pore confinement, which results in a highly stretched droplet surface. We also observed forced jumping of stretched droplets in pores either through coalescence with spherical droplets outside pores or through self-pulling without coalescence. Both experimental observation and theoretical modeling reveal that excess surface free energy stored in the stretched droplet surface and micropore confinement are responsible for this pore-scale-forced jumping. These findings reveal the insightful physics of stretched droplet dynamics and offer guidelines for the design and fabrication of novel super-repellent surfaces with microporous morphology.