Liquid Topography

Name of applicant

Nikolaj Kofoed Mandsberg


Karlsruhe Institute of Technology


DKK 700,000



Type of grant

Internationalisation Fellowships


For centuries, solid surfaces have been patterned chemically and/or topographically to alter their interaction with liquids, i.e. their wetting properties. Hereby, surfaces are made self-cleaning, oil/water separating, frost-inhibiting, and more. However, functional failures are common for certain environmental conditions and liquids, which limits their use in many practical settings. A decade ago, an innovative leap of adding a liquid overlayer/film to the solid surface solved many of said practical issues. Unfortunately, the possibilities to pattern such liquid overlayers have been severely limited, which has kept many innovative doors closed. To open doors, this project will enable topographical patterning of the liquid overlayer and answer the fundamental wetting questions that arise.


Liquid topography is conceptually different from existing strategies for the engineering of wetting properties. It is a hybrid solution that combines the advantages of liquid overlayer surfaces with the ability to pattern, which so far has been reserved for solid surfaces. Furthermore, this hybrid surface may utilize the dynamic nature of liquids to create the first example of dynamic liquid topography, to create wetting properties that adapt to changing external conditions. Hereby, novel methods for droplet actuation may also emerge. Finally, answering fundamental wetting questions (similar to those answered two centuries ago for solid surfaces) will inform about both limitations and opportunities of this new type of surface, to guide future research.


The project will be carried out in the research group of Prof. Pavel Levkin (Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, Germany). This group is a leader in engineering of surface wetting properties. Using their methodologies and instrumentation, I will realize solid substrates that impose spatial constraints on the liquid overlayer, and tune the topography by changing the constraints. The wetting properties of this resulting liquid topography will be characterized with a focus on mapping out the structure-property relationship and creating a physical model for it. Finally, the ability to do promote sessile droplet movement on the liquid topography via external stimuli will be investigated.

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