Wetting of soft superhydrophobic micropillar arrays†
Superhydrophobic surfaces are usually assumed to be rigid so that liquids do not deform them. Here we analyze how the relation between microstructure and wetting changes when the surface is flexible. Therefore we deposited liquid drops on arrays of flexible micropillars. We imaged the drop's surface and the bending of micropillars with confocal microscopy and analyzed the deflection of micropillars while the contact line advanced and receded. The deflection is directly proportional to the horizontal component of the capillary force acting on that particular micropillar. In the Cassie or “fakir” state, drops advance by touching down on the next top faces of micropillars, much like on rigid arrays. In contrast, on the receding side the micropillars deform. The main force hindering the slide of a drop is due to pinning at the receding side, while the force on the advancing side is negligible. In the Wenzel state, micropillars were deflected in both receding and advancing states.