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Aditi Chakrabarti co-authors a paper published in PNAS

A paper entitled "Wetting and phase separation in soft adhesion" co-authored by graduate student Aditi Chakrabarti and Prof. Manoj Chaudhury, and collaborators from Yale and Oxford recently appeared in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The findings in this paper highlight how soft materials adhere to rigid substrates very differently than their stiffer counterparts. This work may have direct implications in various fields that involve adhesion of softer materials such as in biology, medicine, engineering, and everyday consumer products.

The paper reports the observation of a rigid silica sphere resting on a soft silicone substrate forming a four-phase contact zone as opposed to the usual three phase contact in the case of wetting between liquid and rigid solid substrates.

The contact angle of the soft silicone substrate on rigid silica spheres depends on the surface functionalization of the spheres but is independent of the sphere size. It is reported that the four phase contact zone forms in order to satisfy the wetting condition without a divergent elastic stress that results in the separation of the gel phase from its solvent near the contact line. Although the geometries of these contact lines are independent of the size of the sphere, the volume of the phase-separated region is not, which depends on the indentation volume.

PNAS, the principle journal of the National Academy of Sciences, is one of the world's most-cited and comprehensive multidisciplinary scientific journals, publishing more than 3,800 research papers annually. Established in 1914, PNAS publishes cutting-edge research, science news, Commentaries, Reviews, Perspectives, Colloquium Papers, and actions of the National Academy of Sciences.

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