Sequential self-propelled morphology transitions of nanoscale condensates enable a cascade jumping-droplet condensation

S Gao and J Qu and ZC Liu and WG Ma, NANO ENERGY, 113, 108558 (2023).

DOI: 10.1016/j.nanoen.2023.108558

Jumping-droplet condensation, namely the out-of-plane jumping of condensed droplets upon coalescence, has been a promising technical innovation in the fields of energy harvesting, droplet manipulation, thermal management, etc., yet is limited owing to the challenge of enabling a sustainable and programmable control. Here, we characterized the morphological evolutions and dynamic behaviors of nanoscale condensates on different nanopillar surfaces, and found that there exists an unrevealed domino effect throughout the entire droplet lifecycle and the coalescence is not the only mechanism to access the droplet jumping. The vapor nucleation preferentially occurs in structure intervals, thus the formed liquid embryos incubate and grow in a spatially confined mode, which stores an excess surface energy and simultaneously provides a asymmetric Laplace pressure, stimulating the trapped droplets to undergo a dewetting transition or even a self- jumping, which can be facilitated by the tall and dense nanostructures. Subsequently, the adjacent droplets merge mutually and further trigger more multifarious self-propelled behaviors that are affected by underlying surface nanostructure, including dewetting transition, coalescence-induced jumping and jumping relay. Moreover, an improved energybased model was developed by considering both the surface structure properties and the nano-physical effects, the theoretical prediction not only extends the coalescence-induced jumping to the nanometer-sized droplets but also correlates the surface nanostructure topology to the jumping velocity. Such a domino effect of nucleationgrowth-coalescence on the ultimate morphology of droplet may offer a new strategy for designing functional nanostructured surfaces that serve to orientationally manipulate, transport and collect droplets, and motivate surface engineers to realize a stable cascade jumping-droplet condensation and achieve its performance ceiling.

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