Long-range spontaneous droplet self-propulsion on wettability gradient surfaces

Research output: Journal Publications and Reviews (RGC: 21, 22, 62)21_Publication in refereed journalpeer-review

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  • Chaoran Liu
  • Chenghao Xiang
  • Lufeng Che
  • Xiaofeng Zhou


Original languageEnglish
Article number7552
Journal / PublicationScientific Reports
Online published8 Aug 2017
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2017



The directional and long-range droplet transportation is of great importance in microfluidic systems. However, it usually requires external energy input. Here we designed a wettability gradient surface that can drive droplet motion by structural topography. The surface has a wettability gradient range of over 150° from superhydrophobic to hydrophilic, which was achieved by etching silicon nanopillars and adjusting the area of hydrophilic silicon dioxide plane. We conducted force analysis to further reveal the mechanism for droplet self-propulsion, and found that the nanostructures are critical to providing a large driving force and small resistance force. Theoretical calculation has been used to analyze the maximal self-propulsion displacement on different gradient surfaces with different volumes of droplets. On this basis, we designed several surfaces with arbitrary paths, which achieved directional and long-range transportation of droplet. These results clarify a driving mechanism for droplet self-propulsion on wettability gradient surfaces, and open up new opportunities for long-range and directional droplet transportation in microfluidic system.

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