Friction determines whether liquid droplets slide off a solid surface or stick to it. Surface heterogeneity is generally acknowledged as the major cause of increased contact angle hysteresis and contact line friction of droplets. Here we challenge this long-standing premise for chemical heterogeneity at the molecular length scale. By tuning the coverage of self-assembled monolayers (SAMs), water contact angles change gradually from about 10° to 110° yet contact angle hysteresis and contact line friction are low for the low-coverage hydrophilic SAMs as well as high-coverage hydrophobic SAMs. Their slipperiness is not expected based on the substantial chemical heterogeneity of the SAMs featuring uncoated areas of the substrate well beyond the size of a water molecule as probed by metal reactants. According to molecular dynamics simulations, the low friction of both low- and high-coverage SAMs originates from the mobility of interfacial water molecules. These findings reveal a yet unknown and counterintuitive mechanism for slipperiness, opening new avenues for enhancing the mobility of droplets.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages12
JournalNature Chemistry
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 23 Oct 2023
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


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