When a water drop is placed onto a soft polymer network, a wetting ridge develops at the drop periphery. The height of this wetting ridge is typically governed by the drop surface tension balanced by elastic restoring forces of the polymer network. However, the situation is more complex when the network is swollen with fluid, because the fluid may separate from the network at the contact line. Here we study the fluid separation and network deformation at the contact line of a soft polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS) network, swollen with silicone oil. By controlling both the degrees of crosslinking and swelling, we find that more fluid separates from the network with increasing swelling. Above a certain swelling, network deformation decreases while fluid separation increases, demonstrating synergy between network deformation and fluid separation. When the PDMS network is swollen with a fluid having a negative spreading parameter, such as hexadecane, no fluid separation is observed. A simple balance of interfacial, elastic, and mixing energies can describe this fluid separation behavior. Our results reveal that a swelling fluid, commonly found in soft networks, plays a critical role in a wetting ridge.
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We acknowledge financial support from the National Science Foundation KY-EPSCoR award 1849213 and the University of Kentucky startup funds.
The data that support the findings of this study are available from the corresponding author upon reasonable request.
Cai, Zhuoyun; Skabeev, Artem; Morozova, Svetlana; and Pham, Jonathan T., "Fluid Separation and Network Deformation in Wetting of Soft and Swollen Surfaces" (2021). Chemical and Materials Engineering Faculty Publications. 78.