The spreading of droplets may be influenced by electric fields, a situation that is relevant to applications such as coating, printing, and microfluidics. In this work we study the effects of an electric field on the gravity-driven spreading of two-dimensional droplets down an inclined plane. We consider both perfect and leaky dielectric liquids, as well as perfectly and partially wetting systems. In addition to the effects of electric fields, we examine the use of thermocapillary forces to suppress the growth of the capillary ridge near the droplet front. Lubrication theory is applied to generate a set of coupled partial differential equations for interfacial height and charge, which are then solved numerically with a finite-difference method. Electric fields increase the height of the capillary ridge in both perfect and leaky dielectric droplets due to electrostatic pressure gradients that drive liquid into the ridge. In leaky dielectrics, large interfacial charge gradients in the contact-line region create shear stresses that also enhance ridge growth and the formation of trailing minor ridges. The coalescence of these ridges can significantly affect the long-time thinning rate of leaky dielectric droplets. In partially wetting liquids, electric fields promote the splitting of smaller droplets from the primary droplet near the receding contact line due to the interplay between electrostatic forces and disjoining pressure. Cooling from below and heating from above generates thermocapillary forces that counteract the effects of electric fields and suppress the growth of the capillary ridge. The results of this work have important implications for manipulating the spreading of droplets down inclined surfaces.
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This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. CBET-1132083.
© 2016 American Chemical Society.
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