American Chemical Society
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Microscale Liquid Dynamics and the Effect on Macroscale Propagation in Pillar Arrays

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journal contribution
posted on 2011-09-06, 00:00 authored by Rong Xiao, Evelyn N. Wang
Liquid dynamics in micropillar arrays have received significant fundamental interest and have offered opportunities for the development of advanced microfluidic, thermal management, and energy-harvesting devices. However, a comprehensive understanding of complex liquid behavior and the effect on macroscopic propagation rates in micropillar arrays is needed. In this work, we investigated the microscopic sweeping behavior of the liquid front along the spreading direction in micropillar arrays where the sweeping distance scales with the one-fifth power of time. We explain the scaling with a simplified model that captures the capillary pressure gradient at the liquid front. Furthermore, we show that such microscopic dynamics is the mechanism that decreases the macroscopic propagation rate. This effect is a result of the reduction in the interfacial energy difference used to generate the capillary pressure, which is explained with an energy-based model and corroborated with experiments. The results indicate the importance of accounting for the microscopic dynamics of the liquid on microstructured surfaces, particularly in sparse geometries.