Simulation Study of Free-Energy Barriers in the Wetting Transition of an Oily Fluid on a Rough Surface with Reentrant Geometry

ES Savoy and FA Escobedo, LANGMUIR, 28, 16080-16090 (2012).

DOI: 10.1021/la303407r

When in contact with a rough solid surface, fluids with low surface tension, such as oils and alkanes, have their lowest free energy in the fully wetted state. For applications where nonwetting by these phillic fluids is desired, some barrier must be introduced to maintain the nonwetted composite state. One way to create this free-energy barrier is to fabricate roughness with reentrant geometry, but the question remains as to whether the free-energy barrier is sufficiently high to prevent wetting. Our goal is to quantify the free-energy landscape for the wetting transition of an oily fluid on a surface of nails and identify significant surface features and conditions that maximize the wetting free-energy barrier (Delta G(fwd)*). This is a departure from most work on wetting, which focuses on the equilibrium composite and wetted states. We use boxed molecular dynamics (BXD) (Glowacki, D. R; Paci, E.; Shalashilin, D. V. J. Phys. Chem. B 2009, 113, 16603-16611) with a modified control scheme to evaluate both the thermodynamics and kinetics of the transition over a range of surface affinities (chemistry). We find that the reentrant geometry of the nails does create a free-energy barrier to transition for phillic chemistry whereas a corresponding system on straight posts wets spontaneously and, that doubling the nail height more than doubles Delta G(fwd)*. For neutral to phillic chemistry, the dewetting free-energy barrier is at least an order of magnitude higher than that for wetting, indicating an essentially irreversible wetting transition. Transition rates from BXD simulations and the associated trends agree well with those in our previous study that used forward flux sampling to compute transition rates for similar systems.

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