Learning from superhydrophobic plants: the use of hydrophilic areas on superhydrophobic surfaces for droplet control [part of the 'Langmuir 25th Year: Wetting and Superhydrophobicity' special issue]

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Shirtcliffe, NJ ; McHale, G ; Newton, MI (2009)

In many countries, the mornings in spring are graced with spectacular displays of dew drops hanging on spiders’ webs and on leaves. Some leaves, in particular, sport particularly large droplets that last well into the morning. In this paper, we study a group of plants that show this effect on their superhydrophobic leaves to try to discover how and why they do it. We describe the structures they use to gather droplets and suggest that these droplets are used as a damper to absorb kinetic energy allowing water to be redirected from sideways motion into vertical motion. Model surfaces in the shape of leaves and as more general flat sheets show that this principle can be used to manipulate water passively, such as on the covers of solar panels, and could also be used in parts of microfluidic devices. The mode of transport can be switched between rolling droplets and rivulets to maximize control
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