Conversion of surface energy and manipulation of a single droplet across micropatterned surfaces

Langmuir. 2008 Sep 2;24(17):9889-97. doi: 10.1021/la8004695. Epub 2008 Aug 7.


To clarify a driving mechanism for the self-movement of a droplet across hydrophobic textured surfaces in series and to develop applications for a microfluidic device, we report a theoretical model, a microfabrication technique, and experimental measurements. The contact angle of a droplet on a composite surface, the stable surface energy level, and the energy barrier caused by hysteresis were investigated. With increasing patterned density of the microstructure, the contact angle and stable surface energy decreased gradually, but the energy barrier increased. Both the analytical results and the experimental measurements show that the surface energy for a suspended status is greater than that for a collapsed status, which produces increased energy to generate the movement of a droplet. An analysis of interactions between actuation force, resistive force, and viscous force during the motion of a droplet is based on the equilibrium between forces. From the perspective of energy conversion, the difference in surface energy between a higher state and a lower state would drive a single droplet and make it move spontaneously if it could overcome the static friction force resulting from hysteresis and the kinetic friction force under droplet movement. The mean velocity in the present device, measured to be 62.5 mm s (-1), agrees satisfactorily with the theoretical prediction. The model developed for the energy levels enables us to assess the contact mode of a droplet placed on the patterned surface. For a prediction of the transport capability of the designed devices, a theoretical interpretation of the conversion between the surface energy and the kinetic energy of the droplet establishes a criterion that the pattern density of a textured surface should be less than 0.76. The effective rate of energy conversion is estimated to be 20.6%.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Chemistry, Physical / methods
  • Equipment Design
  • Hydrophobic and Hydrophilic Interactions
  • Kinetics
  • Microfluidic Analytical Techniques*
  • Microfluidics
  • Models, Statistical
  • Models, Theoretical
  • Surface Properties
  • Thermodynamics
  • Wettability