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Droplet Self-Propulsion on Superhydrophobic Microtracks

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posted on 06.08.2020, 22:19 by Christos Stamatopoulos, Athanasios Milionis, Norbert Ackerl, Matteo Donati, Paul Leudet de la Vallée, Philipp Rudolf von Rohr, Dimos Poulikakos
Liquid transport (continuous or segmented) in microfluidic platforms typically requires pumping devices or external fields working collaboratively with special fluid properties to enable fluid motion. Natural liquid adhesion on surfaces deters motion and promotes the possibility of liquid or surface contamination. Despite progress, significant advancements are needed before devices for passive liquid propulsion, without the input of external energy and unwanted contamination, become a reality in applications. Here we present an unexplored and facile approach based on the Laplace pressure imbalance, manifesting itself through targeted track texturing, driving passively droplet motion, while maintaining the limited contact of the Cassie–Baxter state on superhydrophobic surfaces. The track topography resembles out-of-plane, backgammon-board, slowly converging microridges decorated with nanotexturing. This design naturally deforms asymmetrically the menisci formed at the bottom of a droplet contacting such tracks and causes a Laplace pressure imbalance that drives droplet motion. We investigate this effect over a range of opening track angles and develop a model to explain and quantify the underlying mechanism of droplet self-propulsion. We further implement the developed topography for applications relevant to microfluidic platform functionalities. We demonstrate control of the rebound angle of vertically impacting droplets, achieve horizontal self-transport to distances up to 65 times the droplet diameter, show significant uphill motion against gravity, and illustrate a self-driven droplet-merging process.

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