Direct observation of drops on slippery lubricant-infused surfaces†
For a liquid droplet to slide down a solid planar surface, the surface usually has to be tilted above a critical angle of approximately 10°. By contrast, droplets of nearly any liquid “slip” on lubricant-infused textured surfaces – so termed slippery surfaces – when tilted by only a few degrees. The mechanism of how the lubricant alters the static and dynamic properties of the drop remains elusive because the drop–lubricant interface is hidden. Here, we image the shape of drops on lubricant-infused surfaces by laser scanning confocal microscopy. The contact angle of the drop–lubricant interface with the substrate exceeds 140°, although macroscopic contour images suggest angles as low as 60°. Confocal microscopy of moving drops reveals fundamentally different processes at the front and rear. Drops recede via discrete depinning events from surface protrusions at a defined receding contact angle, whereas the advancing contact angle is 180°. Drops slide easily, as the apparent contact angles with the substrate are high and the drop–lubricant interfacial tension is typically lower than the drop–air interfacial tension. Slippery surfaces resemble superhydrophobic surfaces with two main differences: drops on a slippery surface are surrounded by a wetting ridge of adjustable height and the air underneath the drop in the case of a superhydrophobic surface is replaced by lubricant in the case of a slippery surface.