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Imbibition by polygonal spreading on microdecorated surfaces


Micropatterned surfaces have been studied extensively as model systems to understand influences of topographic1 or chemical2,3 heterogeneities on wetting phenomena. Such surfaces yield specific wetting or hydrodynamic effects, for example, ultrahydrophobic surfaces4, ‘fakir’ droplets5, tunable electrowetting6, slip in the presence of surface heterogeneities7,8 and so on. In addition, chemical patterns allow control of the locus, size and shape of droplets by pinning the contact lines at predetermined locations9,10. Applications include the design of ‘self-cleaning’ surfaces11 and hydrophilic spots to automate the deposition of probes on DNA chips12. Here, we discuss wetting on topographically patterned but chemically homogeneous surfaces and demonstrate mechanisms of shape selection during imbibition of the texture. We obtain different deterministic final shapes of the spreading droplets, including octagons, squares, hexagons and circles. The shape selection depends on the topographic features and the liquid through its equilibrium contact angle. Considerations of the dynamics provide a ‘shape’ diagram that summarizes our observations and suggest rules for a designer’s tool box.

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Figure 1: Mostly-wetting liquid droplets spreading over chemically homogeneous microtextured substrates form polygonal shapes.
Figure 2: Final shapes for droplets of different liquids released on the same surface.
Figure 3: Dynamics of spreading provide a ‘shape’ diagram.
Figure 4: The design of the microtexture allows for the control of the locus, size and shape of spreading droplets.


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The authors thank D. Lohse, M. Fermigier, D. Quéré and M. Sbragaglia for helpful conversations. We thank the Harvard MRSEC (DMR-0213805) for support of this research.

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Correspondence to Howard A. Stone.

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Courbin, L., Denieul, E., Dressaire, E. et al. Imbibition by polygonal spreading on microdecorated surfaces. Nature Mater 6, 661–664 (2007).

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