Wetting and recovery of nano-patterned surfaces beyond the classical picture†
Hydrophobic (nano)textured surfaces, also known as superhydrophobic surfaces, have a wide range of technological applications, including in the self-cleaning, anti-moisture, anti-icing, anti-fogging and friction/drag reduction fields, and many more. The accidental complete wetting of surface textures, which destroys superhydrophobicity, and the opposite process of recovery are two crucial processes that can prevent or enable the technological applications mentioned before. Understanding these processes is key to designing surfaces with tailored wetting and recovery properties. However, recent experiments have suggested that the currently available theories are insufficient for describing the observed phenomena. In this work we offer a dynamic picture of these processes beyond the state of the art showing that the key ingredient determining the experimental behavior is the inertia of the liquid in the wetting and dewetting processes, which is neglected in microscopic and macroscopic quasi-static theories inspired by the classical nucleation theory. The present findings are also important for other related phenomena, such as heterogeneous cavitation, where vapor/gas bubbles form at surface asperities, condensation, dynamics of the triple line, micelle formation, etc.