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.

Document Type


Publication Date


Notes/Citation Information

Published in Communications Materials, v. 2, article no. 21.

© The Author(s) 2021

This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article’s Creative Commons license, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article’s Creative Commons license and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this license, visit https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)


Funding Information

We acknowledge financial support from the National Science Foundation KY-EPSCoR award 1849213 and the University of Kentucky startup funds.

Related Content

The data that support the findings of this study are available from the corresponding author upon reasonable request.

43246_2021_125_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (1389 kB)
Supplementary information

43246_2021_125_MOESM2_ESM.pdf (2483 kB)
Peer review file