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Investigations of surface-tension effects due to small-scale complex boundaries

Jiansheng Feng, University of Massachusetts Amherst


In this Ph.D. dissertation, we have investigated some important surface-tension phenomena including capillarity, wetting, and wicking. We mainly focus on the geometric aspects of these problems, and to learn about how structures affect properties. . In the first project (Chapter 2), we used numerical simulations and experiments to study the meniscus of a fluid confined in capillaries with complicated cross-sectional geometries. In the simulations, we computed the three-dimensional shapes of the menisci formed in polygonal and star-shaped capillaries with sharp or rounded corners. Height variations across the menisci were used to quantify the effect of surface tension. Analytical solutions were derived for all the cases where the cross-sectional geometry was a regular polygon or a regular star-shape. Power indices that characterize the effects of corner rounding were extracted from simulation results. These findings can serve as guide for fabrications of unconventional three-dimensional structures in Capillary Force Lithography experiments. Experimental demonstrations of the working principle was also performed. Although quantitative matching between simulation and experimental results was not achieved due to the limitation of material properties, clear qualitative trends were observed and interesting three-dimensional nano-structures were produced. A second project (Chapter 3) focused on developing techniques to produce three-dimensional hierarchically structured superhydrophobic surfaces with high aspect ratios. We experimented with two different high-throughput electron-beam-lithography processes featuring single and dual electron-beam exposures. After a surface modification procedure with a hydrophobic silane, the structured surfaces exhibited two distinct superhydrophobic behaviors—high and low adhesion. While both types of superhydrophobic surfaces exhibited very high (approximately 160° water advancing contact angles, the water receding contact angles on these two different types of surfaces differed by about 50° ∼ 60°, with the low-adhesion surfaces at about 120° ∼ 130° and the high-adhesion surfaces at about 70° ∼ 80°. Characterizations of both the microscopic structures and macroscopic wetting properties of these product surfaces allowed us to pinpoint the structural features responsible for specific wetting properties. It is found that the advancing contact angle was mainly determined by the primary structures while the receding contact angle is largely affected by the side-wall slope of the secondary features. This study established a platform for further exploration of the structure aspects of surface wettability. In the third and final project (Chapter 4), we demonstrated a new type of microfluidic channel that enable asymmetric wicking of wetting fluids based on structure-induced direction-dependent surface-tension effect. By decorating the side-walls of open microfluidic channels with tilted fins, we were able to experimentally demonstrate preferential wicking behaviors of various IPA-water mixtures with a range of contact angles in these channels. A simplified 2D model was established to explain the wicking asymmetry, and a complete 3D model was developed to provide more accurate quantitative predictions. The design principles developed in this study provide an additional scheme for controlling the spreading of fluids. The research presented in this dissertation spreads out across a wide range of physical phenomena (wicking, wetting, and capillarity), and involves a number of computational and experimental techniques, yet all of these projects are intrinsically united under a common theme: we want to better understand how simple fluids respond to small-scale complex surface structures as manifestations of surface-tension effects. We hope our findings can serve as building blocks for a larger scale endeavor of scientific research and engineering development. After all, the pursue of knowledge is most meaningful if the results improve the well-being of the society and the advancement of humanity. (Abstract shortened by UMI.)

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Recommended Citation

Feng, Jiansheng, "Investigations of surface-tension effects due to small-scale complex boundaries" (2013). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI3556245.