Tunable hydrodynamic characteristics in microchannels with biomimetic superhydrophobic (lotus leaf replica) walls†
The present work comprehensively addresses the hydrodynamic characteristics through microchannels with lotus leaf replica (exhibiting low adhesion and superhydrophobic properties) walls. The lotus leaf replica is fabricated following an efficient, two-step, soft-molding process and is then integrated with rectangular microchannels. The inherent biomimetic, superhydrophobic surface–liquid interfacial hydrodynamics, and the consequential bulk flow characteristics, are critically analyzed by the micro-particle image velocimetry technique. It is observed that the lotus leaf replica mediated microscale hydrodynamics comprise of two distinct flow regimes even within the low Reynolds number paradigm, unlike the commonly perceived solely apparent slip-stick dominated flows over superhydrophobic surfaces. While the first flow regime is characterized by an apparent slip-stick flow culminating in an enhanced bulk throughput rate, the second flow regime exhibits a complete breakdown of the aforementioned laminar and uni-axial flow model, leading to a predominantly no-slip flow. Interestingly, the critical flow condition dictating the transition between the two hydrodynamic regimes is intrinsically dependent on the micro-confinement effect. In this regard, an energetically consistent theoretical model is also proposed to predict the alterations in the critical flow condition with varying microchannel configurations, by addressing the underlying biomimetic surface–liquid interfacial conditions. Hence, the present research endeavour provides a new design-guiding paradigm for developing multi-functional microfluidic devices involving biomimetic, superhydrophobic surfaces, by judicious exploitation of the tunable hydrodynamic characteristics in the two regimes.