Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

High friction on a bubble mattress


Reducing the friction of liquid flows on solid surfaces has become an important issue with the development of microfluidics systems, and more generally for the manipulation of fluids at small scales. To achieve high slippage of liquids at walls, the use of gas as a lubricant1,2,3,4—such as microbubbles trapped in superhydrophobic surfaces5—has been suggested. The effect of microbubbles on the effective boundary condition has been investigated in a number of theoretical studies6,7,8,9, which basically show that on flat composite interfaces the magnitude of the slippage is proportional to the periodicity of the gaseous patterns10. Recent experiments aiming to probe the effective boundary condition on superhydrophobic surfaces with trapped bubbles have indeed shown high slippage in agreement with these theoretical predictions10,11,12. Here, we report nanorheology measurements of the boundary flow on a surface with calibrated microbubbles. We show that gas trapped at a solid surface can also act as an anti-lubricant and promote high friction. The liquid–gas menisci have a dramatic influence on the boundary condition, and can turn it from slippery to sticky. It is therefore essential to integrate the control of menisci in fluidic microsystems designed to reduce wall friction.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution

Relevant articles

Open Access articles citing this article.

Access options

Rent or buy this article

Prices vary by article type



Prices may be subject to local taxes which are calculated during checkout

Figure 1: Microstructured surfaces.
Figure 2: Nanorheology over microstructured surfaces.
Figure 3: Evolution of the slip length with the meniscus shape.


  1. Vinogradova, O. L. et al. Submicrocavity structure of water between hydrophobic and hydrophilic walls as revealed by optical cavitation. J. Colloid Interface Sci. 173, 443–447 (1995).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  2. de Gennes, P. G. On fluid/wall slippage. Langmuir 18, 3413–3414 (2002).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  3. Cottin-Bizonne, C., Barrat, J.-L., Bocquet, L. & Charlaix, E. Low-friction flows of liquid at nanopatterned interfaces. Nature Mater. 2, 237–240 (2003).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  4. Tretheway, D. C. & Meinhart, C. D. A generating mechanism for apparent fluid slip in hydrophobic microchannels. Phys. Fluids 16, 1509–1515 (2004).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  5. Quere, D. Non sticking drops. Rep. Prog. Phys. 68, 2495–2532 (2005).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  6. Philip, J. R. Integral properties of flows satisfying mixed no-slip and no-shear conditions. Z. Angew. Math. Phys. 23, 960–968 (1972).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  7. Lauga, E. & Stone, H. A. Effective slip in pressure-driven Stokes flow. J. Fluid Mech. 489, 55–77 (2003).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  8. Cottin-Bizonne, C., Barentin, C., Charlaix, E., Bocquet, L. & Barrat, J.-L. Dynamics of simple liquids at heterogeneous surfaces: Molecular-dynamics simulations and hydrodynamic description. Eur. Phys. J. E 15, 427–438 (2004).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  9. Sbragaglia, M. & Prosperetti, A. Effective velocity boundary condition at a mixed slip surface. J. Fluid Mech. 578, 435–451 (2007).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  10. Joseph, P. et al. Slippage of water past superhydrophobic carbon nanotube forests in microchannels. Phys. Rev. Lett. 97, 156104 (2006).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  11. Ou, J., Perot, B. & Rothstein, J. P. Laminar drag reduction in microchannels using ultrahydrophobic surfaces. Phys. Fluids 16, 4635–4643 (2004).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  12. Ou, J. & Rothstein, J. P. Direct velocity measurements of the flow past drag-reducing ultrahydrophobic surfaces. Phys. Fluids 16, 103606 (2005).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  13. Kleimann, P., Badel, X. & Linnros, J. Toward the formation of three-dimensional nanostructures by electrochemical etching of silicon. Appl. Phys. Lett. 86, 183108 (2005).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  14. Restagno, F., Crassous, J., Charlaix, E., Cottin-Bizonne, C. & Monchanin, M. A new surface forces apparatus for nanorheology. Rev. Sci. Instrum. 73, 2292–2297 (2002).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  15. Vinogradova, O. I. Drainage of a thin liquid-film confined between hydrophobic surfaces. Langmuir 11, 2213–2220 (1995).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  16. Tachie, M. F., James, D. F. & Currie, I. G. Slow flow through a brush. Phys. Fluids 16, 445–451 (2004).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  17. Richardson, S. No-slip boundary condition. J. Fluid Mech. 59, 707–719 (1973).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  18. Jansons, K. M. Determination of the macroscopic (partial) slip boundary condition for a viscous flow over a randomly rough surface with a perfect slip microscopic boundary condition. Phys. Fluids 31, 15–17 (1988).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  19. Borkent, B. M., Dammer, S. M., Schönherr, H., Vancso, G. J. & Lohse, D. Superstability of surface nanobubbles. Phys. Rev. Lett. 98, 204502 (2007).

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references


We would like to thank L. Bocquet, P.-Y. Verilhac and X. Badel. We acknowledge support from ANR pNANO.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to Cécile Cottin-Bizonne.

Ethics declarations

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Steinberger, A., Cottin-Bizonne, C., Kleimann, P. et al. High friction on a bubble mattress. Nature Mater 6, 665–668 (2007).

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI:

This article is cited by


Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing