Developing Novel Topological Liquid Diodes with Superior Directional Transport and Antifouling Properties

Project: Research

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Developing electronic diode-like devices that endow the preferential liquid transport is of significant importance. Over the past decade, in spite of extensive progress in the creation of various strategies to rectify liquid transport using the bio-inspired approach, the state-of-the-art devices either involve the use of external energy input or suffer from drawbacks such as low liquid transport velocity and limited transport distance. Recently, we successfully designed a novel silicon-based topological liquid diode that takes advantage of the corner effect to induce a fast spreading precursor film as the driving force and the reentrant structure to pin the liquid in the reverse direction. Although such a device enables the spontaneous and directional transport of virtually any kind of liquids without the need of external energy input, it is still limited by the complexity imposed by the topological structure and manufacturing process. Owing to the hydrophilic nature of surface chemistry, the liquid diode also suffers from severe fouling problem during the long-term operation, which in turn reduces its lifetime and restricts its wide applications. Inspired by the groundbreaking work on the rectification of gas flow in one direction using the Tesla valve, in this project we will propose to develop novel liquid diodes amenable for large-scale manufacturing on a wide range of materials and surface configurations including open surface as well as inner surface by leveraging on Tesla structure. To demonstrate the generality of our design, we will develop facile techniques to fabricate liquid diodes on different materials and surface configurations such as open surface and the inner surface of capillary tube. Furthermore, we will elucidate how the macroscopic transport performances (i.e. rectification coefficient, velocity and transport distance) and the microscopic dynamics are regulated by structural topography. Finally, to address the surface fouling problem encountered in conventional devices, we propose to decorate the as-designed liquid diodes with a special thermal-responsive coating which can switch its wettability in response to an external temperature trigger. Such an active method will be able to remove surface fouling in an on-demand manner, resulting in simultaneous enhancement in liquid directional transport and operation lifetime. If successful, the project will open up a new avenue to design novel fluid devices with advanced functionalities, but also find a wide range of applications such as in biomedical materials and devices, water harvest, and lab on a chip system.


Project number9042673
Grant typeGRF
Effective start/end date1/01/19 → …