Surfaces with special wetting properties not only can efficiently repel or attract liquids such as water and oils but also can prevent formation of biofilms, ice, and clathrate hydrates. Predicting the wetting properties of these special surfaces requires detailed knowledge of the composition and geometry of the interfacial region between the droplet and the underlying substrate. In this work we introduce a 3D quantitative method for direct nanoscale visualization of such interfaces. Specifically, we demonstrate direct nano- to microscale imaging of complex fluidic interfaces using cryostabilization in combination with cryogenic focused ion beam milling and SEM imaging. We show that application of this method yields quantitative information about the interfacial geometry of water condensate on superhydrophilic, superhydrophobic, and lubricant-impregnated surfaces with previously unattainable nanoscale resolution. This type of information is crucial to a fundamental understanding as well as the design of surfaces with special wetting properties.

See paper here: Konrad Rykaczewski, Trevan Landin, Marlon L. Walker, John Henry J. Scott, and Kripa K. Varanasi, ACS Nano

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