Morphology of soft and rough contact via fluid drainage
The dynamic of contact formation between soft materials immersed in a fluid is accompanied by fluid drainage and elastic deformation. As a result, controlling the coupling between lubrication pressure and elasticity provides strategies to design materials with reversible and dynamic adhesion to wet or flooded surfaces. We characterize the elastic deformation of a soft coating with nanometer-scale roughness as it approaches and contacts a rigid surface in a fluid environment. The lubrication pressure during the approach causes elastic deformation and prevents contact formation. We observe deformation profiles that are drastically different from those observed for elastic half-space when the thickness of the soft coating is comparable to the hydrodynamic radius. In contrast, we show that surface roughness favors fluid drainage without altering the elastic deformation. As a result, the coupling between elasticity and slip (caused by surface roughness) can lead to trapped fluid pockets in the contact region.