Thermal singularity and droplet motion in one-component fluids on solid substrates with thermal gradients

Xinpeng Xu, Tiezheng Qian*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Using a continuum model capable of describing the one-component liquid-gas hydrodynamics down to the contact line scale, we carry out numerical simulation and physical analysis for the droplet motion driven by thermal singularity. For liquid droplets in one-component fluids on heated or cooled substrates, the liquid-gas interface is nearly isothermal. Consequently, a thermal singularity occurs at the contact line and the Marangoni effect due to temperature gradient is suppressed. Through evaporation or condensation in the vicinity of the contact line, the thermal singularity makes the contact angle increase with the increasing substrate temperature. This effect on the contact angle can be used to move the droplets on substrates with thermal gradients. Our numerical results for this kind of droplet motion are explained by a simple fluid dynamical model at the droplet length scale. Since the mechanism for droplet motion is based on the change of contact angle, a separation of length scales is exhibited through a comparison between the droplet motion induced by a wettability gradient and that by a thermal gradient. It is shown that the flow field at the droplet length scale is independent of the statics or dynamics at the contact line scale.

Original languageEnglish
Article number061603
JournalPhysical Review E
Issue number6
StatePublished - 26 Jun 2012
Externally publishedYes


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