Molecular Processes in Dynamic Wetting
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Time: Thu 2020-04-16 09.00
Subject area: Biological Physics
Doctoral student: Petter Johansson , Tillämpad fysik, Molecular Biophysics
Opponent: Professor Guillaume Galliero, University of Pau
Supervisor: Professor Berk Hess, Biofysik; Erik Lindahl, Biofysik
The spreading of liquids onto and over surfaces is a fundamental process in nature. It is present in all forms and sizes: From rivers carving through landscapes, to our blood stream transporting nutrients to cells, and even single water molecules moving through channels into these cells. We now have a good understanding of how fluid movement works inside the fluid itself. However, we do not fully understand the processes close to the contact line, where the liquid is spreading onto the surface. We are forced to make assumptions about this behaviour and none of these assumptions have yet proven to be universally valid.
As everything in nature, liquid spreading is a fundamentally molecular process. This thesis summarises my work on applying this lens to the process. By studying molecules we begin at the smallest combined building blocks of nature and do not have to make any prior assumptions of the involved processes. Instead, we simply observe their behaviour. This is accomplished through the use of molecular dynamics simulation, which are an atomistic form of computer experiments. We use a realistic model of water molecules as our base liquid, since this captures realistic effects such as hydrogen bonding which are not present when using simpler models. Combined with large-scale systems which minimise the influence of finite-size effects, we have a realistic treatment of complex liquid systems.
We find that the molecular processes of wetting have an important influence on large-scale wetting. Most importantly, the hydrogen bonding nature of water to realistic substrates yields the no-slip condition often used as a boundary condition for models of wetting. Furthermore, since molecular processes are thermal in nature they create energy barriers which impede contact line advancement. We show how these barriers are created and how they can be diminished, for example in the case of electrowetting. This highlights that understanding the molecular behaviour of fluids remains an important field of study.