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Low-temperature Leidenfrost-like jumping of sessile droplets on microstructured surfaces

Abstract

The Leidenfrost effect—the levitation and hovering of liquid droplets on hot solid surfaces—generally requires a sufficiently high substrate temperature to activate liquid vaporization. Here we report the modulation of Leidenfrost-like jumping of sessile water microdroplets on micropillared surfaces at a relatively low temperature. Compared to traditional Leidenfrost effect occurring above 230 °C, the fin-array-like micropillars enable water microdroplets to levitate and jump off the surface within milliseconds at a temperature of 130 °C by triggering the inertia-controlled growth of individual vapour bubbles at the droplet base. We demonstrate that droplet jumping, resulting from momentum interactions between the expanding vapour bubble and the droplet, can be modulated by tailoring of the thermal boundary layer thickness through pillar height. This enables regulation of the bubble expansion between the inertia-controlled mode and the heat-transfer-limited mode. The two bubble-growth modes give rise to distinct droplet jumping behaviours characterized by constant velocity and constant energy regimes, respectively. This heating strategy allows the straightforward purging of wetting liquid droplets on rough or structured surfaces in a controlled manner, with potential applications including the rapid removal of fouling media, even when located in surface cavities.

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Fig. 1: Leidenfrost-like droplet jumping dynamics on hot micropillared surface.
Fig. 2: Rapid vapour bubble expansion for Leidenfrost-like droplet jumping.
Fig. 3: Vibrational droplet jumping dynamics on hot micropillared surface.
Fig. 4: Vapour bubble shrinking during vibrational droplet jumping.
Fig. 5: Effect of micropillar height H and substrate temperature Tw on droplet jumping behaviours.
Fig. 6: Rapid droplet purging on microstructured substrates and surface deep fouling removal.

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Data analysed during this study are included in this Article. Source data are provided with this paper.

Code availability

Codes used to generate the data presented in this study are available from the corresponding authors upon reasonable request.

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Acknowledgements

This work was supported by the National Science Foundation Chemical, Bioengineering, Environmental and Transport Systems under grant no. 2133017 and NSF Electrical, Communications and Cyber Systems under grant no. 1808931. L.Z. acknowledges financial support from the National Natural Science Foundation of China under grant no. 52105174, the Opening Project of the Key Laboratory of Bionic Engineering (Ministry of Education), Jilin University under grant no. KF2023004. Device fabrication and a portion of the analysis and manuscript preparation were performed at the Center for Nanophase Materials Sciences of the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, which is a US Department of Energy Office of Science User Facility.

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Authors

Contributions

J.C. and W.H. conceived the research. J.C. and L.Z. supervised the research. W.H. designed and carried out the experiments. W.H., L.Z. and J.C. analysed the data and wrote the original manuscript. W.H., X.H., C.P.C., D.P.B., Y.L., Z.Z., J.L. and J.C. prepared the samples. All authors wrote and edited the manuscript.

Corresponding authors

Correspondence to Lei Zhao or Jiangtao Cheng.

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The authors declare no competing interests.

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Nature Physics thanks Xudong Deng and the other, anonymous, reviewer(s) for their contribution to the peer review of this work.

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Extended data

Extended Data Fig. 1 Experimental setup for the Leidenfrost-like droplet jumping study.

a A water droplet is initially deposited in Wenzel state on the micropillared substrate and then both the droplet and the substrate are carefully translated to a hot plate preheated at 130 °C. b Experimental setup for droplet jumping observation. The temperature of the substrate is measured by a K-type thermocouple embedded in the hot plate underneath the substrate. Surface temperature of the droplet is monitored by an IR camera (FLIR A655sc) after moving the substrate on the hot plate. The vibration and jumping processes of the boiling droplet are recorded by a side view high-speed camera (nac MEMRECAM HX-3) and the vapor bubble growth process is monitored by another high-speed camera from the top (Photron FASTCAM SA-6).

Extended Data Fig. 2 Substrate topology details of the engineered surfaces used in this study.

a The scanning electron micrography (SEM) of substrate [D, L, H] = [20, 120, 20] μm. b SEM image of substrate [D, L, H] = [20, 120, 40] μm. c SEM image of substrate \(\left[D,{L},{H}\right]=\left[20,\,120,\,60\right]{\rm{\mu }}{\rm{m}}\). d SEM image of substrate [D, L, H] = [20, 120, 80] \({\rm{\mu }}{\rm{m}}\). e Wenzel state droplet on substrate [D, L, H] = [20, 120, 80] \({\rm{\mu }}{\rm{m}}\) at room temperature. The height of the sessile droplet is 1.83 mm; the contact diameter of the droplet is 2.24 mm; the contact angle of the droplet is 118°. f The sliding angle of the droplet on the substrate [D, L, H] = [20, 120, 80] μm at room temperature is 67°.

Extended Data Fig. 3 Surface temperature evolution of the hot plate before and after the transfer of droplet-substrate system.

Along with the transfer of the droplet-substrate system, the hot plate temperature is continuously monitored by a K-type thermocouple embedded in the hot plate. The thermocouple is positioned in a carved channel which is about 0.5 mm below the 2 cm by 2 cm substrate. The blue arrow indicates the anchoring moment of the droplet-substrate system on the hot plate.

Source data

Extended Data Fig. 4 Top-view snapshots of vapor bubble expansion and shrinkage on the substrate.

The droplet is placed on the substrate with dimensions of\(\,\left[D,{L},{H}\right]=\left[20,\,120,\,60\right]{\rm{\mu }}{\rm{m}}\) at 130 °C. The vapor bubble expands from 0 ms to 1 ms and then begins to shrink until 5.5 ms. The scalebar is 1 mm.

Extended Data Fig. 5 Droplet mass center variation on the hot substrate [D, L, H] = [20, 120, 20] μm at different temperatures.

a Droplet height variation on substrate at 130 °C. b Droplet height variation on substrate at 140 °C. c Droplet height variation on substrate at 150 °C. d Droplet height variation on substrate at 160 °C. e Droplet height variation on substrate at 170 °C.

Source data

Supplementary information

Supplementary Information

Supplementary Figs. 1–10, Discussions 1–6 and Table 1.

Supplementary Video 1

Leidenfrost-like jumping droplet on micropillared substrates at 130 °C. Side-view video of the Leidenfrost-like jumping droplet shown in Fig. 1a. Water droplet 2 mm in diameter resting on substrate [D,L,H] = [20, 120, 80] μm explosively jumps off the substrate in milliseconds.

Supplementary Video 2

Vapour bubble expansion process on hot substrate with 80 μm micropillars. Top-view video of the rapid vapour bubble expansion for the Leidenfrost-like jumping droplet on substrate [D,L,H] = [20, 120, 80] μm shown in Fig. 2a. The vapour bubble expands rapidly and reaches the droplet’s periphery in 1.32 ms.

Supplementary Video 3

Vibration jumping droplet on micropillared substrates at 130 °C. Side-view video of the vibration jumping droplet shown in Fig. 3a. Water droplet 2 mm in diameter resting on substrate [D,L,H] = [20, 120, 20] μm vibrates with obvious period on the substrate and finally jumps off the substrate.

Supplementary Video 4

Vapour bubble expansion process on hot substrate with 20 μm micropillars. Top-view video of the bubble growth process on substrate [D,L,H] = [20, 120, 20] μm. The bubble expansion process is interrupted by an obvious shrinking process.

Supplementary Video 5

Vapour bubble expansion process on hot substrate with 60 μm micropillars. Top-view video of the bubble growth process on substrate [D,L,H] = [20, 120, 60] μm. The bubble expansion process is interrupted by an obvious shrinking process. And then the bubble expands slowly to fully cover the droplet base.

Supplementary Video 6

Rapid droplet purging process on hot tilted substrate. Side-view video of the droplet jumping process on tilted substrates at 130 °C. For the tilted substrate [D,L,H] = [20, 120, 20] μm, the droplet initiates out-of-plate jumping via vibration and lands softly on the substrate, remaining in the low-friction Cassie state until it slides off the substrate. For the tilted substrate [D,L,H] = [20, 120, 80] μm, the Leidenfrost-like droplet jumps explosively from the substrate and experiences repetitive rebounding and falling for several cycles before it finally rolls off the substrate.

Supplementary Video 7

Surface fouling removal process via boiling droplet. Top-view video of dislodging and removal of fouling from surface roughness by sliding droplet on tilted substrate [D,L,H] = [20, 120, 20] μm at 130 °C. The initial Wenzel state droplet catches the contaminants in cavities, and then the generation of vapour bubbles effectively dislodges the residual contaminant particles and drives them to suspend in the droplet. Finally, the sliding droplet effectively purges the surface fouling.

Supplementary Video 8

Removal of sprayed particles. Particles sprayed on the micropillared substrate [D,L,H] = [20, 120, 20] μm can be easily blown away. However, particles deposited via droplet evaporation cannot be easily removed by gas blowing.

Supplementary Video 9

Water droplet rinsing of deposited particles. Particles sprayed on the micropillared substrate [D,L,H] = [20, 120, 20] μm can be easily removed by water droplet rinsing, whereas particles deposited via droplet evaporation cannot be easily dislodged by water droplet rinsing.

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Huang, W., Zhao, L., He, X. et al. Low-temperature Leidenfrost-like jumping of sessile droplets on microstructured surfaces. Nat. Phys. (2024). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41567-024-02522-z

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