Water droplet impact on surfaces is a ubiquitous phenomenon in nature and industry, where the time of contact between droplet and surface influences the transfer of mass, momentum and energy. To manipulate and reduce the contact time of impacting droplets, previous publications report tailoring of surface microstructures that influence the droplet-surface interface. Here we show that surface elasticity also affects droplet impact, where a droplet impacting an elastic superhydrophobic surface can lead to a two-fold reduction in contact time compared to equivalent rigid surfaces. Using high speed imaging, we investigated the impact dynamics on elastic nanostructured superhydrophobic substrates having membrane and cantilever designs with stiffness 0.5-7630 N/m. Upon impact, the droplet excites the substrate to oscillate, while during liquid retraction, the substrate imparts vertical momentum back to the droplet with a springboard effect, causing early droplet lift-off with reduced contact time. Through detailed experimental and theoretical analysis, we show that this novel springboarding phenomenon is achieved for a specific range of Weber numbers (We >40) and droplet Froude numbers during spreading (Fr >1). The observation of the substrate elasticity-mediated droplet springboard effect provides new insight into droplet impact physics.
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