Limiting phenomena for the spreading of water on polymer films by electrowetting
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This paper is about fundamental limitations in electrowetting, used as a tool for spreading water solutions on hydrophobic surfaces, like the surface of a polymer film. Up to which point can an electric voltage decrease the contact angle? The first limitation comes when using pure water, above a threshold voltage, little droplets are emitted at the perimeter of the mother drop. We present an analysis of the drop contour line stability, involving competition between electrostatic and capillary forces, which is compatible with observations. The use of salted water solutions suppresses this instability, then one faces a second limitation: the evolution of the contact angle saturates before complete wetting. We show that this saturation is caused by ionisation of the air in the vicinity of the drop edge. We analyse the luminescence induced by gas ionization and measure the related electrical discharges. We explain how air ionization suppresses the driving force for electrowetting and how it induces the formation of an hydrophillic ring around the drop.
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