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Using a range of theoretical and simulation approaches, physicists from the University of Bristol have shown that liquids in contact with substrates can exhibit a finite number of classes of behaviour and identify the important new ones.
Their findings, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), challenge the accepted wisdom on wetting and drying phase behaviour.
Authors - Framework - Properties - Materials - Substrates
The authors provide a firm conceptual framework for tailoring the properties of new materials, including finding super-repellant substrates, such as expelling water from windscreens, as well as understanding hydrophobic interactions at the length scale of biomolecules.
When a liquid such as water is repelled from a solid substrate, the drop created exhibits a large contact angle. This is known as a hydrophobic state, or superhydrophobic if the contact angle is very large, so that the drop forms a near spherical shape.
Contrast - Substrate - Liquid - Words - Substrate—this
By contrast, if the substrate attracts the liquid sufficiently strongly—in other words, a hydrophilic substrate—this creates a small contact angle and the drop spreads over the surface.
Whether a surface is hydrophobic or hydrophilic is determined by the degree of molecular attraction between the substrate and the liquid.
Attraction - Wettability - Substrates - Systems - Function
Controlling the attraction is key to the wettability of substrates, which determines how many physical and biological systems function. For instance, plant leaves are often hydrophobic, allowing them to remain dry during rain so that gas exchange can occur through their pores. However, liquids such as...
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