Research ArticlePHYSICS

Viscosity-enhanced droplet motion in sealed superhydrophobic capillaries

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Science Advances  16 Oct 2020:
Vol. 6, no. 42, eaba5197
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aba5197


It is well known that an increased viscosity slows down fluid dynamics. Here we show that this intuitive rule is not general and can fail for liquids flowing in confined liquid-repellent systems. A gravity-driven, highly viscous glycerol droplet inside a sealed superhydrophobic capillary is moving more than 10 times faster than a water droplet with three-orders-of-magnitude lower viscosity. Using tracer particles, we show that the low-viscosity droplets are rapidly rotating internally, with flow velocities greatly exceeding the center-of-mass velocity. This is in stark contrast to the faster moving high-viscosity droplets with nearly vanishing internal flows. The anomalous viscosity-enhanced flow is caused by a viscosity-suppressed deformation of the droplet-air interface and a hydro- and aerodynamic coupling between the droplet and the air trapped within the micro/nanostructures (plastron). Our work demonstrates the unexpected role of the plastron in controlling fluid flow beyond the mere reduction in contact area and friction.

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