Spreading dynamics of microdroplets on nanostructured surfaces

Xiong Wang, Xiao Yan, Jiayu Du, Bingqiang Ji, Mohammad Jalal Inanlu, Qi Min, Nenad Miljkovic

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Hypothesis: Droplet spreading governs various daily phenomena and industrial processes. Insights about microdroplet spreading are limited due to experimental difficulties arising from microdroplet manipulation and substrate wettability control. For droplet sizes approaching the capillary length scale, the gravitational force plays an important role in spreading. In contrast, capillary and viscous forces dominate as the droplet size reduces to smaller length scales. We hypothesize that the dynamic spreading behavior of microdroplets whose radius is far lower than the capillary length differs substantially from established and well understood dynamics. Experiments: To systematically investigate the spreading dynamics of microdroplets, we develop contact-initiated wetting techniques combined with structuring-independent wettability control to achieve microdroplet (<500 μm) spreading on arbitrary surfaces while eliminating parasitic pinning effects (pining force ∼ 0) and initial impact momentum effects (Weber number ∼ 0). Findings: Our experiments reveal that the capillary-driven initial spreading of microdroplets is shorter, with significantly reduced oscillation dampening, when compared to millimeter-scale droplets. Furthermore, spreading along with capillary wave propagation results in coupling between the spreading velocity and dynamic contact angle at the contact line. These findings, along with our proposed microdroplet manipulation platform, may find application in microscale heat transfer, advanced manufacturing, and aerosol transmission studies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)221-230
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Colloid And Interface Science
StatePublished - Apr 2023


  • Dynamics
  • Microdroplets
  • Oscillating
  • Spreading
  • Wetting

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Electronic, Optical and Magnetic Materials
  • Surfaces, Coatings and Films
  • Biomaterials
  • Colloid and Surface Chemistry


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