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Journal Article

Direct force measurement of microscopic droplets pulled along soft surfaces


Karpitschka,  Stefan
Group Fluidics in heterogeneous environments, Department of Dynamics of Complex Fluids, Max Planck Institute for Dynamics and Self-Organization, Max Planck Society;

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Khattak, H. K., Karpitschka, S., Snoeijer, J. H., & Dalnoki-Veress, K. (2022). Direct force measurement of microscopic droplets pulled along soft surfaces. Nature Communications, 13: 4436. doi:10.1038/s41467-022-31910-3.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-000A-E830-A
Elastic deformation of soft substrates occurs upon wetting, yet it is challenging to follow its dynamics at a microscale. Khattak et al. show that the force required to pull a droplet along a soft surface decreases monotonically as the film thickness decreases and explain the phenomenon using a scaling analysis.

When a droplet is placed on a soft surface, surface tension deforms the substrate, creating a capillary ridge. We study how the motion of the ridge dissipates energy in microscopic droplets. Using a micropipette based method, we are able to simultaneously image and measure forces on a microscopic droplet moving at a constant speed along a soft film supported on a rigid substrate. Changing the thickness of the thin film tunes the effective stiffness of the substrate. Thus we can control the ridge size without altering the surface chemistry. We find that the dissipation depends strongly on the film thickness, decreasing monotonically as effective stiffness increases. This monotonic trend is beyond the realm of small deformation theory, but can be explained with a simple scaling analysis.