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伯爵科学奖获得者Martin Coux博士取得重要成果

已有 877 次阅读 2021-2-9 08:28 |个人分类:科研工作|系统分类:论文交流


2018年第一届伯爵科学奖获得者、EPFL青年科学家Martin Coux博士通过在柔性材料表面制备微米量级的微柱阵列,让液滴在胶体材料表面也能够与在硬质材料表面上一样快速流动,打破了柔性材料表面的粘弹性抑制效应,相关成果Surface textures suppress viscoelastic braking on soft substrates近日发表在在美国科学院院刊PNASProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences)上。

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Martin Coux, Piaget Scientific Award 2018. ©DR


Droplets perform daredevil feats on gel surfaces

EPFL scientists have succeeded in making droplets flow just as fast on soft surfaces as on hard ones by changing the surface texture.

Welcome to the amazing world of soft substrates. These materials are made of silicon gels and have the same texture as panna cotta – but without the delicious flavor. They are used in a range of applications, especially in the pharmaceutical industry, because their biocompatible and antiadhesive properties make them resistant to corrosion and bacterial contamination. These substrates are so soft that they can be deformed (reversibly) by the capillary forces that occur at the edges of droplets when placed on their surfaces. However, droplets move very slowly on these surfaces; in order to flow, the droplets have to dynamically deform the substrates and overcome the resistance created by the substrate’s viscoelastic proprieties. A millimeter-sized droplet placed on a substrate positioned vertically will flow at a speed of only between a few hundred nanometers per second and a few dozen micrometers per second. In other words, it would take the droplet three hours to move just one meter! This slowing effect is known as viscoelastic braking and is a big obstacle to the more widespread use of soft substrates, especially in manufacturing.

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A team of scientists at EPFL’s Engineering Mechanics of Soft Interfaces (EMSI) laboratory, within the School of Engineering, has shown that viscoelastic braking can be overcome by placing tiny pillars on the substrate’s surface. More fundamentally, the scientists were able to observe, for the first time, the contact between a fluid and a soft substrate in a complex geometry. Their findings have just been published in PNAS.

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A new geometry

The EPFL scientists employed a method that’s already widely used in wetting processes: altering a substrate’s surface texture so that it becomes superhydrophobic. More specifically, they covered a gel surface with tiny pillars 100 µm high and 100 µm wide, so that droplets placed on the gel lie only on the pillar tops – much like a daredevil walking on a bed of nails. Viewing the droplets through a confocal microscope, the scientists saw that the pillars deform as the droplets move along them. What’s more, the size of the solid deformation was almost the same as that obtained on a flat gel surface, meaning the droplets are in fact being held up by the hundreds of tiny pillars. And even though the deformation sizes were so close, the droplets moved at the same speed as they would on a hard surface.

“These altered textures ‘kill’ the viscoelastic braking effect, even though there is a fairly large contact area between the fluid and the solid,” says Martin Coux, one of the authors of the study, along with Prof. John Kolinski. “Due to the unique geometry of the contact points between the fluid and the solid, raised slightly above the substrate surface, the droplets adopt configurations that they usually wouldn’t be able to on a soft surface. That lets them flow along the substrate just as fast as they would on a hard surface.” Using the EMSI’s high-speed microscope, the scientists were able to observe and understand this previously unknown phenomenon of fundamental physics.

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It’s worth pointing out that all this occurs on a micrometric scale (the solid deformations are on the order of 1–100 µm). “Thanks to the advancements made in viewing technology over the past ten years, scientists can now see the deformations that occur when fluids come into contact with soft substrates – and not just statically (like when the droplets are stationary), but also dynamically, such as when the droplets flow on the surface,” says Coux. This new capability has given a boost to physicists who specialize in fluid mechanics, accelerated their understanding of elastocapillary interactions between soft substrates and fluids, and put the EPFL scientists on the path to their breakthrough discovery.

 

Funding

This research was financed in part by proceeds from the Piaget Scientific Award, which Martin Coux won in 2018.

References

“Surface textures suppress viscoelastic braking on soft substrates,” Martin Coux and John M. Kolinski, PNAS, 22 December 2020. 117 (51) 32285-32292; first published 4 December 2020; https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.2008683117.

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伯爵科学奖

PIAGET Scientific Award(伯爵科学奖)是一个待遇优厚的一年特别研究资助计划,鼓励从事微型化和微机电工程研究的博士和博士后申请,由世界名表伯爵公司全额资助获奖人在瑞士EPFL做一年的自由研究和探索。获奖人还会获得一块刻有名字的定制款伯爵表做为纪念。

申请条件和要求以及资助详情,请访问网站:piaget-award.epfl.ch



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