Wetting on soft gels

Abstract : In this thesis, we aim at obtaining a better understanding of the statics and dynamics of the wetting of liquids on soft gels, otherwise known as elastowetting. First, we develop a quantitative Schlieren optics to measure the surface deformation of a transparent gel film with a high precision over large areas in real time. The long-range surface deformation of soft PDMS films is found to be dependent on the sessile droplet size, and the thickness and elasticity of the soft films. We build a model based on linear elasticity theory with the integration of the surface tension of soft materials that predicts the long-range surface deformation in excellent agreement with the data. We also bring the experimental proof and theoretical analysis of the importance of contact angle hysteresis in the description of the deformation of the surface of the gel. We demonstrate that the tangential component of the liquid-vapor surface tension at the contact line, whose contribution are often neglected, significantly affects the surface deformation. Wetting dynamics is investigated by deflating droplets on PDMS films with well-controlled thickness. It is shown that energy dissipation in the soft gel depends on the thickness when the latter is smaller than 100 μm. The viscoelastic braking effect and the thickness effect are both well rationalized with a model based on the theory of linear viscoelasticity and a simple scaling law accounting for the thickness effect captures very well our experiments. Finally, we demonstrate that we are able to guide moving droplets with coatings having a gradient of their thickness.
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Menghua Zhao. Wetting on soft gels. Chemical Physics [physics.chem-ph]. PSL Research University, 2017. English. ⟨NNT : 2017PSLET024⟩. ⟨tel-02356275⟩

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