Droplets move over viscoelastic substrates by surfing a ridge

Stefan Karpitschka, S. Das, Mathijs van Gorcum, H. Perrin, B. Andreotti, Jacobus Hendrikus Snoeijer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

99 Citations (Scopus)
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Liquid drops on soft solids generate strong deformations below the contact line, resulting from a balance of capillary and elastic forces. The movement of these drops may cause strong, potentially singular dissipation in the soft solid. Here we show that a drop on a soft substrate moves by surfing a ridge: the initially flat solid surface is deformed into a sharp ridge whose orientation angle depends on the contact line velocity. We measure this angle for water on a silicone gel and develop a theory based on the substrate rheology. We quantitatively recover the dynamic contact angle and provide a mechanism for stick–slip motion when a drop is forced strongly: the contact line depins and slides down the wetting ridge, forming a new one after a transient. We anticipate that our theory will have implications in problems such as self-organization of cell tissues or the design of capillarity-based microrheometers.
Original languageEnglish
Article number7894
Pages (from-to)7894-
Number of pages7
JournalNature communications
Issue number7894
Publication statusPublished - 2015


  • METIS-311082
  • IR-96676


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