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Nat Mater. 2007 Sep;6(9):661-4. Epub 2007 Aug 12.

Imbibition by polygonal spreading on microdecorated surfaces.

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  • 1School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138, USA.


Micropatterned surfaces have been studied extensively as model systems to understand influences of topographic or chemical heterogeneities on wetting phenomena. Such surfaces yield specific wetting or hydrodynamic effects, for example, ultrahydrophobic surfaces, 'fakir' droplets, tunable electrowetting, slip in the presence of surface heterogeneities and so on. In addition, chemical patterns allow control of the locus, size and shape of droplets by pinning the contact lines at predetermined locations. Applications include the design of 'self-cleaning' surfaces and hydrophilic spots to automate the deposition of probes on DNA chips. 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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