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Langmuir. 2004 May 11;20(10):4085-92.

Ratcheting motion of liquid drops on gradient surfaces.

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Department of Chemical Engineering, Lehigh University, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania 18015, USA.


The motions of liquid drops of various surface tensions and viscosities were investigated on a solid substrate possessing a gradient of wettability. A drop of any size moves spontaneously on such a surface when the contact angle hysteresis is negligible; but it has to be larger than a critical size in order to move on a hysteretic surface. The hysteresis can, however, be reduced or eliminated with vibration that allows the drop to sample various metastable states, thereby setting it to the path of global energy minima. Significant amplification of velocity is observed with the frequency of forcing vibration matching the natural harmonics of drop oscillation. It is suggested that the main cause for velocity amplification is related to resonant shape fluctuation, which can be illustrated by periodically deforming and relaxing the drop at low frequencies.


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