Certain natural organisms use micro‐patterned surface chemistry, or ice‐nucleating species, to control water condensation and ice nucleation for survival under extreme conditions. As an analogy to these biological approaches, it is shown that functionalized, hydrophilic polymers and particles deposited on the tips of superhydrophobic posts induce precise topographical control over water condensation and freezing at the micrometer scale. A bottom‐up deposition process is used to take advantage of the limited contact area of a non‐wetting aqueous solution on a superhydrophobic surface. Hydrophilic polymer deposition on the tips of these geometrical structures allows spatial control over the nucleation, growth, and coalescence of micrometer‐scale water droplets. The hydrophilic tips nucleate water droplets with extremely uniform nucleation and growth rates, uniform sizes, an increased stability against coalescence, and asymmetric droplet morphologies. Control of freezing behavior is also demonstrated via deposition of ice‐nucleating AgI nanoparticles on the tips of these structures. This combination of the hydrophilic polymer and AgI particles on the tips was used to achieve templating of ice nucleation at the micrometer scale. Preliminary results indicate that control over ice crystal size, spatial symmetry, and position might be possible with this method. This type of approach can serve as a platform for systematically analyzing micrometer‐scale condensation and freezing phenomena, and as a model for natural systems.
The authors would like to acknowledge the assistance of Dr. Mughees Khan (Wyss Institute for Bio-inspired Engineering) in the fabrication of the arrays structures. The work was partially supported by the ARPA-E under award #: DE-AR0000326. The work was performed in part at the Center for Nanoscale Systems (CNS), a member of the National Nanotechnology Infrastructure Network (NNIN), which is supported by the National Science Foundation under Award ECS-0335765. L.M. thanks the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) for the fellowship. The DHS Scholarship and Fellowship Program is administered by the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE) through an interagency agreement between the US Department of Energy (DOE) and DHS. ORISE is managed by Oak Ridge Associated Universities (ORAU) under DOE Contract DE-AC05-06OR23100.