Droplet leaping governs microstructured surface wetting†
Microstructured surfaces that control the direction of liquid transport are not only ubiquitous in nature, but they are also central to technological processes such as fog/water harvesting, oil–water separation, and surface lubrication. However, a fundamental understanding of the initial wetting dynamics of liquids spreading on such surfaces is lacking. Here, we show that three regimes govern microstructured surface wetting on short time scales: spread, stick, and contact line leaping. The latter involves establishing a new contact line downstream of the wetting front as the liquid leaps over specific sections of the solid surface. Experimental and numerical investigations reveal how different regimes emerge in different flow directions during wetting of periodic asymmetrically microstructured surfaces. These insights improve our understanding of rapid wetting in droplet impact, splashing, and wetting of vibrating surfaces and may contribute to advances in designing structured surfaces for the mentioned applications.