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Doubly Reentrant Cavities Prevent Catastrophic Wetting Transitions on Intrinsically Wetting Surfaces

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posted on 05.06.2017, 00:00 by Eddy M. Domingues, Sankara Arunachalam, Himanshu Mishra
Omniphobic surfaces, that is, which repel all known liquids, have proven of value in applications ranging from membrane distillation to underwater drag reduction. A limitation of currently employed omniphobic surfaces is that they rely on perfluorinated coatings, increasing cost and environmental impact and preventing applications in harsh environments. Thus, there is a keen interest in rendering conventional materials, such as plastics, omniphobic by micro/nanotexturing rather than via chemical makeup, with notable success having been achieved for silica surfaces with doubly reentrant micropillars. However, we found a critical limitation of microtextures comprising pillars that they undergo catastrophic wetting transitions (apparent contact angles, θr → 0° from θr > 90°) in the presence of localized physical damages/defects or on immersion in wetting liquids. In response, a doubly reentrant cavity microtexture is introduced, which can prevent catastrophic wetting transitions in the presence of localized structural damage/defects or on immersion in wetting liquids. Remarkably, our silica surfaces with doubly reentrant cavities could exhibit apparent contact angles, θr ≈ 135° for mineral oil, where the intrinsic contact angle, θo ≈ 20°. Further, when immersed in mineral oil or water, doubly reentrant microtextures in silica (θo ≈ 40° for water) were not penetrated even after several days of investigation. Thus, microtextures comprising doubly reentrant cavities might enable applications of conventional materials without chemical modifications, especially in scenarios that are prone to localized damages or immersion in wetting liquids, for example, hydrodynamic drag reduction and membrane distillation.