Author ORCID Identifier

Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Mechanical and Nuclear Engineering

First Advisor

Dr. Reza Mohammadi


Owing to their excellent water repellency, non-wettable (superhydrophobic) coatings have gained tremendous attention in the past couple of decades. Alkyl ketene dimer (AKD), an inexpensive polymer frequently used in paper industry as a sizing agent, has shown potentials to become superhydrophobic. The formation of a porous structure after curing the solidified AKD for an extra-long time (4–6 days) results in superhydrophobicity, i.e., a static contact angle with water of >150° and a roll-off angle of <10°. In this work, a facile and low-cost method was used to turn the surface of AKD superhydrophobic in a very short period of time by briefly treating the coatings, obtained from isothermally heated molten AKD at 40 °C for 3 min, with ethanol. The resulting superhydrophobicity is due to the formation of porous, entangled irregular micro/nano textures that create air cushions on the surface leading to droplet state transition from Wenzel to Cassie. As a proof of concept, the same material was applied to the co-sputtered nickel-tungsten thin films, commonly used in micro/nano-electro-mechanical systems, to improve their hydrophobicity. According to the results, at least 20% increase was observed in the dynamic contact angles of the treated substrates.

In addition, this work presents a detailed high-speed imaging analysis of the influence of the molecular weight, concentration and ionic nature of surfactants on droplet impact of such solutions on hydrophilic, hydrophobic and superhydrophobic substrates. Among all these surfaces, the concentration and ionic nature of the solutions were found to be more dominant parameters in determining the energy dissipation in the retraction phase of the droplet impact on the superhydrophobic (AKD) surfaces at room temperature. As the concentration decreases or when positive charges are present in the solution, it is more likely to observe a similar retraction dynamic to pure water when the droplet hits the superhydrophobic AKD having negatively charged surface sites.

Finally, the impact dynamics and freezing behavior of these solutions were studied at very low temperatures of –10 to –30 °C. The results show that the dynamic behavior of the solutions is also a function of their temperature-dependent viscosity. The surfactant-laden droplets generally demonstrated an accelerated freezing compared to pure water. This might be due to the fact that the presence of surfactants can promote heterogeneous ice nucleation both from within the liquid as well as a larger solid-liquid interfacial area, resulted from filling the air pockets of the surface by surfactants, leading to enhanced heat transfer. The behavior of the cationic surfactant at certain concentrations was, however, an exception leading to a freezing delay, for which a mechanism will be proposed.


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