Scientific Program

The scientific objectives of this network are driven by fundamental questions raised in microfluidics, interfacial science, and micromanipulation. The rational use of surface tension, surface stress and capillary effects in micromanipulation will be applied to a selected number of highly relevant case studies by the network partners, including capillary gripping, capillary filling, capillary alignment, capillary sealing, capillary self-assembly and droplet manipulation.

 These fundamental questions can be grouped into three categories:

 1.    Fluid statics and dynamics: How much force is applied on solids by menisci and micro-flows in a given geometry? What happens if the solid bends when subject to these forces? Are the interfaces stable and what if not? What is the effect of an electric field? How can the microscopic description of wetting be translated into an adequate boundary condition at the macroscopic level?

 2.    Surface engineering: How does a contact line move on a rough surface? Can one pattern the surface microscopically to control this motion? How is the motion affected by evaporation, or by the presence of colloid particles in the liquid or at the interface? Do these particles interact with the micro-patterns on the surface? Can one create highly 3D patterns on the surface by using capillary forces?

 3.    Liquid engineering: How to measure the interfacial properties of complex liquids where apart from surface tension a surface viscoelastic response is present? How to infer macroscopic properties from the dynamics at the molecular scale? And how to engineer liquids and tailor them to the requirements arising from applications? Can one make a liquid that is biocompatible, and has a large surface tension and a low viscosity?

 The proposed program is highly multidisciplinary, as it combines the forefront research in physics, material science, chemistry and engineering. It will cover topics that range from fundamental theory with atomistic simulations to experiments to investigate the fundamentals and selected more applied case studies. It will address both static and dynamic points of view, and establish the link between the microscopic properties of liquids and surfaces, and the macroscopic performances expected in the case studies. To that aim, this IAP project has gathered a multi-disciplinary research team that covers all the disciplines listed above.

 The originality of this network relies in the efforts to enhance the collaboration of both the interfacial science, microfluidics and microengineering communities.