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Pinning of the Contact Line during Evaporation on Heterogeneous Surfaces: Slowdown or Temporary Immobilization? Insights from a Nanoscale Study

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posted on 14.07.2015, 00:00 by Jianguo Zhang, Florian Müller-Plathe, Frédéric Leroy
The question of the effect of surface heterogeneities on the evaporation of liquid droplets from solid surfaces is addressed through nonequilibrium molecular dynamics simulations. The mechanism behind contact line pinning which is still unclear is discussed in detail on the nanoscale. Model systems with the Lennard-Jones interaction potential were employed to study the evaporation of nanometer-sized cylindrical droplets from a flat surface. The heterogeneity of the surface was modeled through alternating stripes of equal width but two chemical types. The first type leads to a contact angle of 67°, and the other leads to a contact angle of 115°. The stripe width was varied between 2 and 20 liquid-particle diameters. On the surface with the narrowest stripes, evaporation occurred at constant contact angle as if the surface was homogeneous, with a value of the contact angle as predicted by the regular Cassie–Baxter equation. When the width was increased, the contact angle oscillated during evaporation between two boundaries whose values depend on the stripe width. The evaporation behavior was thus found to be a direct signature of the typical size of the surface heterogeneity domains. The contact angle both at equilibrium and during evaporation could be predicted from a local Cassie–Baxter equation in which the surface composition within a distance of seven fluid-particle diameters around the contact line was considered, confirming the local nature of the interactions that drive the wetting behavior of droplets. More importantly, we propose a nanoscale explanation of pinning during evaporation. Pinning should be interpreted as a drastic slowdown of the contact line dynamics rather than a complete immobilization of it during a transition between two contact angle boundaries.