Thoughts on some outstanding issues in the physics of equilibrium wetting and conceptual understanding of contact lines

Regular Article


Equilibrium wetting is a fundamental phenomenon, relevant to many scientific areas. Since the pioneering work on equilibrium wetting of Thomas Young (1805) [1], researchers strived to advance our understanding of this fundamental problem. Despite its apparent simplicity, equilibrium wetting phenomenon still holds many unanswered questions and represents a challenge to modern physicists and engineers. The relationship between quantities amenable to measurements, like macroscopic wetting contact angle, and other surface ener- gies and physical properties remains to be fully elucidated. Wetting is a physical problem which spans over two length scales, inner region (“microscopic”) length scale and outer region (“macroscopic”). The three-phase contact line, where the macroscopic region meets the micro- scopic one, and underlying surface forces, represents a challenge to fully understand and model. In this paper, a brief review of the basics of wetting and existing concepts is first presented. Then two important questions are discussed in the light of the latest experimental findings: first the relevance of the continuum concept when describing interfaces near the three-phase contact line, and second the effect of adsorption on interfacial energies and its use to explain some interesting observations like the dependence of equilibrium contact angle on pressure and size of droplets. These recent observations raise some fundamental questions about how the three-phase contact line is conceptualised.


Contact Angle European Physical Journal Special Topic Contact Line Line Tension Disjoin Pressure 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


  1. 1.
    T. Young, Phil. Trans. R. Soc. Lond. 95, 65 (1805)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. 2.
    D. Bonn, J. Eggers, J. Indekeu, J. Meunier, E. Rolley, Rev. Mod. Phys. 81, 739 (2009)ADSCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. 3.
    B. Derjaguin, E. Obuchov, Acta Physicochimica U.B.S.S. 5 (1936)Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    N.V. Churaev, B.V. Derjaguin, Int. J. Colloid Interface Sci. 103, 542 (1985)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. 5.
    V.M. Starov, M.G. Velarde, C.J. Radke, Wetting and spreading dynamics, Surfactant Science Series, vol. 138 (Taylor & Francis-CRC Press, New York, 2007)Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    B.V. Derjaguin, Zh. Fiz. Khim. 14, 137 (1940) [English transl.: J. Phys. Chem. USSR, 14, (1940)]Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    A.N. Frumkin, Zh. Fiz. Khim. 12, 337 (1938)Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    J.C. Eriksson, B.V. Toshev, Coll. Surf. A 5, 241 (1982)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. 9.
    P.C. Wayner, AICHE J. 45, 2055 (1999)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. 10.
    J.W. Gibbs, in The Scientific Papers of J. Willard Gibbs (Bumstead, H.A. & Name, R.G.V., eds.) (1961), p. 1Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    R. Mazzoco, P.C. Wayner Jr., Int. J. Colloid Interface Sci. 214, 156 (1999)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. 12.
    B. Widom, J. Phys. Chem. 100, 13190 (1996)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. 13.
    L. Barouvka, A.W. Neumann, J. Chem. Phys. 66, 5464 (1977)ADSCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. 14.
    A. Marmur, Int. J. Colloid Interface Sci. 186, 462 (1997)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. 15.
    D. Mattia, Y. Gogotsi, Microfluid. Nanofluid. 5, 289 (2008)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. 16.
    C.A. Ward, J.Y. Wu, A. Keshavarz, J. Phys. Chem. B 112, 71 (2007)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. 17.
    C.A. Ward, J.Y. Wu, Phys. Rev. Lett. 100, 256103 (2008)ADSCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. 18.
    C.A. Ward, K. Sefiane, Adv. Colloid Interface Sci. 161, 171 (2010)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. 19.
    P.G. de Gennes, Nobel Laureate in Physics, in his 1994 Dirac Memorial Lecture: Soft Interfaces (1994)Google Scholar

Copyright information

© EDP Sciences and Springer 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of EngineeringThe University of EdinburghEdinburghScotland, UK

Personalised recommendations