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  1. The recent global outbreaks of epidemics and pandemics have shown us that we are severely under-prepared to cope with infectious agents. Exposure to infectious agents present in biofluids ( e.g. , blood, saliva, urine etc. ) poses a severe risk to clinical laboratory personnel and healthcare workers, resulting in hundreds of millions of hospital-acquired and laboratory-acquired infections annually. Novel technologies that can minimize human exposure through remote and automated handling of infectious biofluids will mitigate such risk. In this work, we present biofluid manipulators, which allow on-demand, remote and lossless manipulation of virtually any liquid droplet. Our manipulators are designed by integrating thermo-responsive soft actuators with superomniphobic surfaces. Utilizing our manipulators, we demonstrate on-demand, remote and lossless manipulation of biofluid droplets. We envision that our biofluid manipulators will not only reduce manual operations and minimize exposure to infectious agents, but also pave the way for developing inexpensive, simple and portable robotic systems, which can allow point-of-care operations, particularly in developing nations. 
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  3. Droplet nucleation and condensation are ubiquitous phenomena in nature and industry. Over the past century, research has shown dropwise condensation heat transfer on nonwetting surfaces to be an order of magnitude higher than filmwise condensation heat transfer on wetting substrates. However, the necessity for nonwetting to achieve dropwise condensation is unclear. This article reports stable dropwise condensation on a smooth, solid, hydrophilic surface (θ a = 38°) having low contact angle hysteresis (<3°). We show that the distribution of nano- to micro- to macroscale droplet sizes (about 100 nm to 1 mm) for coalescing droplets agrees well with the classical distribution on hydrophobic surfaces and elucidate that the wettability-governed dropwise-to-filmwise transition is mediated by the departing droplet Bond number. Our findings demonstrate that achieving stable dropwise condensation is not governed by surface intrinsic wettability, as assumed for the past eight decades, but rather, it is dictated by contact angle hysteresis. 
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  4. Abstract

    Omniphobic membranes are attractive for membrane distillation (MD) because of their superior wetting resistance. However, a design framework for MD membrane remains incomplete, due to the complexity of omniphobic membrane fabrication and the lack of fundamental relationship between wetting resistance and water vapor permeability. Here we present a particle-free approach that enables rapid fabrication of monolithic omniphobic membranes for MD desalination. Our monolithic omniphobic membranes display excellent wetting resistance and water purification performance in MD desalination of hypersaline feedwater containing surfactants. We identify that a trade-off exists between wetting resistance and water vapor permeability of our monolithic MD membranes. Utilizing membranes with tunable wetting resistance and permeability, we elucidate the underlying mechanism of such trade-off. We envision that our fabrication method as well as the mechanistic insight into the wetting resistance-vapor permeability trade-off will pave the way for smart design of MD membranes in diverse water purification applications.

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  5. When two liquid droplets coalesce on a superrepellent surface, the excess surface energy is partly converted to upward kinetic energy, and the coalesced droplet jumps away from the surface. However, the efficiency of this energy conversion is very low. In this work, we used a simple and passive technique consisting of superomniphobic surfaces with a macrotexture (comparable to the droplet size) to experimentally demonstrate coalescence-induced jumping with an energy conversion efficiency of 18.8% (i.e., about 570% increase compared to superomniphobic surfaces without a macrotexture). The higher energy conversion efficiency arises primarily from the effective redirection of in-plane velocity vectors to out-of-plane velocity vectors by the macrotexture. Using this higher energy conversion efficiency, we demonstrated coalescence-induced jumping of droplets with low surface tension (26.6 mN m −1 ) and very high viscosity (220 mPa·s). These results constitute the first-ever demonstration of coalescence-induced jumping of droplets at Ohnesorge number >1. 
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  6. Abstract

    Due to their unique functionality, superomniphobic surfaces that display extreme repellency toward virtually any liquid, have a wide range of potential applications. However, to date, the mechanical durability of superomniphobic surfaces remains a major obstacle that prevents their practical deployment. In this work, a two‐layer design strategy is developed to fabricate superomniphobic surfaces with improved durability via synergistic effect of interconnected hierarchical porous texture and micro/nanomechanical interlocking. The improved mechanical robustness of these surfaces is assessed through water shear test, ultrasonic washing test, blade scratching test, and Taber abrasion test.

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  7. Abstract

    Paper‐based superomniphobic surfaces are of great interest because paper is flexible, inexpensive, lightweight, breathable, and recyclable. Prior reports on paper‐based superomniphobic surfaces have failed to demonstrate high mobility with low surface tension liquids. In order to overcome this issue, in this work, superomniphobic papers are developed through growth of nanofilaments on inherent microfibers of papers without noticeably altering their microscale features (i.e., diameter and distance of the microfibers). These superomniphobic papers display very low roll‐off angle, indicative of ultra‐high droplet mobility, even with low surface tension liquids. Here, a facile method is also developed to control the motion and adhesion of the droplets on the superomniphobic paper. Utilizing such liquid mobility in a controlled manner on these superomniphobic papers, a simple on‐paper pH sensor is fabricated. It is anticipated that this on‐paper, simple, and rapid detection methodology can also be extended to the colorimetric sensing of protein and chemical assays. Further, these superomniphobic papers have potential applications in water–oil separation and enhanced weight‐bearing capacity.

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