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Characterization of the topography and wettability of English weed leaves and biomimetic replicas

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Abstract

The topography and wettability of the underside of English weed (Oxalis pes-caprae) leaves and of their biomimetic replicas are investigated. Polyvinyl siloxane molds were cast from the leaves and then filled with an epoxy pre-polymer to produce replicas. The particular topographical structures of leaves and replicas were evaluated by optical microscopy and Scanning Electron Microscopy (SEM) analysis. The static wettability of leaves and replicas was assessed by contact angle measurements, while the dynamic wettability was characterized by estimating contact angle hysteresis and studying the dynamic behavior of impacting water droplets. A smooth glass slip and its replica were used as control surfaces. The replica moulding method used was able to transfer the characteristic pattern of irregular 100 µm − 200 µm × 60 µm convex papillae interspersed with stomata of the original leaf to the epoxy replicas. The static contact angle of 143° ± 3° and the contact angle hysteresis of 2° indicate that the underside of the English weed leaf is close to superhydrophobic. The lower contact angles (130° ± 4°) and higher hysteresis (31°) observed for the replica when compared with the original leaves were associated to an inaccurate replication of the chemistry and structures of the three-dimensional wax projections covering the plant surface. Also, trichomes in the original leaves could not be accurately reproduced due to their flexibility and fragility. Differences in wetting behavior were also evident from droplet impact experiments, with rebound regimes prevailing in the original leaves and regimes characterized by higher adhesion and larger dissipation predominating in the replicas. Nevertheless, the morphological features of the leaf transferred to the replica were sufficient to promote a clear hydrophobic behavior of the replica when compared with the smooth epoxy reference surface.

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Correspondence to Ana Sofia Moita.

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Pereira, P.M.M., Moita, A.S., Monteiro, G.A. et al. Characterization of the topography and wettability of English weed leaves and biomimetic replicas. J Bionic Eng 11, 346–359 (2014) doi:10.1016/S1672-6529(14)60048-2

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Keywords

  • biomimetic surfaces
  • oxalis pes-caprae
  • English weed
  • replica molding
  • wettability
  • micro-topography