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Electric Actuation of Liquid Metal Droplets in Acidified Aqueous Electrolyte

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posted on 21.12.2018, 00:00 authored by Stephan Handschuh-Wang, Yuzhen Chen, Lifei Zhu, Tiansheng Gan, Xuechang Zhou
The electric actuation of room-temperature liquid metals, such as Galinstan (gallium–indium–tin), has largely been conducted in alkaline electrolyte. Addition of surface-active anions and a proper acidic pH are expected to influence the interfacial tension of the liquid metal due to a high surface charge density. Hence, it should be possible to actuate liquid metals in such acidic environments. To ascertain this, at first, the dependence of the interfacial tension of Galinstan in NaOH, acidified KI, and acidified NaCl electrolyte on the concentration of the surface-active anions OH, I, and Cl, respectively, were studied. Subsequently, a systematic study of the actuation of Galinstan in acidified KI electrolyte was executed and compared to actuation in alkaline medium. In the presence of HCl and acidified NaCl electrolyte, the interfacial tension of Galinstan is only marginally altered, while acidified KI solution reduced the interfacial tension of Galinstan significantly from 470.8 ± 1.4 (no KI) to 370.6 ± 4.1 mN/m (5 M KI) due to the high surface charge density of the electric double layer. Therefore, in acidified electrolyte in the presence of surface-active anions, the electrically actuated motion of LM can be realized. In particular, the actuation of Galinstan achieves a higher average and maximum speed at lower applied voltage and power consumption for acidified KI electrolyte. The formation of high surface charge density in acidified environments signifies a paradigm shift and opens up new possibilities to tune interfacial tension and controlled LM droplet motion of room-temperature liquid metals.