Growth dynamics of surface nanodroplets during solvent exchange at varying flow rates†
Solvent exchange is a simple solution-based process to produce surface nanodroplets over a large area. The final size of the droplets is determined by both the flow and solution conditions for a given substrate. In this work, we investigate the growth dynamics of surface nanodroplets during solvent exchange by using total internal reflection fluorescence microscopy (TIRF). The results show that during the solvent exchange, the formation of surface nanodroplets advanced on the surface in the direction of the flow. The time for the number density and surface coverage of the droplets to reach their respective plateau values is determined by the flow rate. From the observed evolution of the droplet volume and of the size of individual growing droplets, we are able to determine that the growth time of the droplets scales with the Peclet number Pe with a power law ∝Pe−1/2. This is consistent with Taylor–Aris dispersion, shedding light on the diffusive growth dynamics during the solvent exchange. Further, the spatial rearrangement of the droplets during coalescence demonstrates a preference in position shift based on size inequality, namely, the coalesced droplet resides closer to the larger of the two parent droplets. These findings provide a valuable insight toward controlling droplet size and spatial distribution.