Oil droplet self-transportation on oleophobic surfaces

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Science Advances  17 Jun 2016:
Vol. 2, no. 6, e1600148
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.1600148


Directional liquid transportation is important for a variety of biological processes and technical applications. Although surface engineering through asymmetric chemical modification or geometrical patterning facilitates effective liquid manipulation and enables water droplet self-transportation on synthetic surfaces, self-transportation of oil droplets poses a major challenge because of their low surface tension. We report oil droplet self-transportation on oleophobic surfaces that are microtextured with radial arrays of undercut stripes. More significantly, we observe three modes of oil motion on various sample surfaces, namely, inward transportation, pinned, and outward spreading, which can be switched by the structure parameters, including stripe intersection angle and width. Accompanying theoretical modeling provides an in-depth mechanistic understanding of the structure–droplet motion relationship. Finally, we reveal how to optimize the texture parameters to maximize oil droplet self-transportation capability and demonstrate spontaneous droplet movement for liquids down to a surface tension of 22.4 mN/m. The surfaces presented here open up new avenues for power-free liquid transportation and oil contamination self-removal applications in various analytical and fluidic devices.

  • oil droplet
  • self-transportation
  • wetting
  • oleophobic
  • geometrical gradient
  • undercut structure
  • anisotropic surfaces
  • anti-contamination
  • micro- and nanodevices
  • microfludics

This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial license, which permits use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, so long as the resultant use is not for commercial advantage and provided the original work is properly cited.

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