Light-driven motion of water droplets with directional control on nanostructured surfaces†
Discrete droplet transport has drawn much interest in a broad range of applications. Controlling the motion direction in droplet transport, however, is a long-lasting challenge. In this work, a simple yet efficient approach is demonstrated to realize the motion of droplets with directional control on nanostructured surfaces with predefined channels. Light is used as the external stimulus to induce the uneven thermal expansion of the substrate, which leads to the tilting of nanostructured channels so that the droplet is driven to move along the channel. Due to the easy manipulation of light, including both the light position and power density, this study demonstrates the controllable entrance of static water droplets into targeted channels and the simultaneous control of the motion of multiple droplets in multi-channel systems, using just one light source. Besides static droplets, this approach can also be applied for the directional control of moving droplets in multi-channel systems. As a proof-of-concept, such an approach has been utilized for efficient multiplexed reactions for chemical sensing or microreactor applications. This work offers an alternative approach for the manipulation of droplet movement in applications that involve the control of droplet motion.