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Superhydrophobicity Enhancement Through Substrate Flexibility

Thomas Vasileiou, Julia Gerber, Jana Prautzsch, Thomas M. Schutzius, Dimos Poulikakos

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Inspired by manifestations in nature, microengineering and nanoengineering of synthetic materials to achieve superhydrophobicity has been the focus of much work. Generally, hydrophobicity is enhanced through the combined effects of surface texturing and chemistry; being durable, rigid materials are the norm. However, many natural and technical surfaces are flexible, and the resulting effect on hydrophobicity has been largely ignored. Here, we show that the rational tuning of flexibility can work synergistically with the surface microtexture or nanotexture to enhance liquid repellency performance, characterized by impalement and breakup resistance, contact time reduction, and restitution coefficient increase. Reduction in substrate areal density and stiffness imparts immediate acceleration and intrinsic responsiveness to impacting droplets (∼350 × g), mitigating the collision and lowering the impalement probability by ∼60% without the need for active actuation. Furthermore, we exemplify the above discoveries with materials ranging from man-made (thin steel or polymer sheets) to nature-made (butterfly wings).