Molecular origin of contact line stick-slip motion during droplet evaporation

FC Wang and HA Wu, SCIENTIFIC REPORTS, 5, 17521 (2015).

DOI: 10.1038/srep17521

Understanding and controlling the motion of the contact line is of critical importance for surface science studies as well as many industrial engineering applications. In this work, we elucidate the molecular origin of contact line stick-slip motion during the evaporation of liquid droplets on flexible nano-pillared surfaces using molecular dynamics simulations. We demonstrate that the evaporation- induced stick-slip motion of the contact line is a consequence of competition between pinning and depinning forces. Furthermore, the tangential force exerted by the pillared substrate on the contact line was observed to have a sawtooth-like oscillation. Our analysis also establishes that variations in the pinning force are accomplished through the self-adaptation of solid-liquid intermolecular distances, especially for liquid molecules sitting directly on top of the solid pillar. Consistent with our theoretical analysis, molecular dynamics simulations also show that the maximum pinning force is quantitatively related to both solid-liquid adhesion strength and liquid-vapor surface tension. These observations provide a fundamental understanding of contact line stick-slip motion on pillared substrates and also give insight into the microscopic interpretations of contact angle hysteresis, wetting transitions and dynamic spreading.

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