Fast Transport of Water Droplets over a Thermo-Switchable Surface Using Rewritable Wettability Gradient

Theneyur Narayanaswamy Banuprasad, Thamarasseril Vijayan Vinay, Cherumannil Karumuthil Subash, Soney Varghese, Sajan D. George, Subramanyan Namboodiri Varanakkottu

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58 Citations (Scopus)


In spite of the reported temperature dependent tunability in wettability of poly(N-isopropylacrylamide) (PNIPAAm) surfaces for below and above lower critical solution temperature (32 °C), the transport of water droplets is inhibited by the large contact angle hysteresis. Herein, for the first time, we report on-demand, fast, and reconfigurable droplet manipulation over a PNIPAAm grafted structured polymer surface using temperature-induced wettability gradient. Our study reveals that the PNIPAAm grafted on intrinsically superhydrophobic surfaces exhibit hydrophilic nature with high contact angle hysteresis below 30 °C and superhydrophobic nature with ultralow contact angle hysteresis above 36 °C. The transition region between 30 and 36 °C is characterized by a large change in water contact angle (∼100°) with a concomitant change in contact angle hysteresis. By utilizing this "transport zone" wherein driving forces overcome the frictional forces, we demonstrate macroscopic transport of water drops with a maximum transport velocity of approximately 40 cm/s. The theoretical calculations on the force measurements concur with dominating behavior of driving forces across the transport zone. The tunability in transport velocity by varying the temperature gradient along the surface or the inclination angle of the surface (maximum angle of 15° with a reduced velocity 0.4 mm/s) is also elucidated. In addition, as a practical application, coalescence of water droplets is demonstrated by using the temperature controlled wettability gradient. The presented results are expected to provide new insights on the design and fabrication of smart multifunctional surfaces for applications such as biochemical analysis, self-cleaning, and microfluidics.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)28046-28054
Number of pages9
JournalACS Applied Materials and Interfaces
Issue number33
Publication statusPublished - 23-08-2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Materials Science(all)


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