The role of material flexibility on the drying transition of water between hydrophobic objects: A thermodynamic analysis

Y. Elia Altabet, Pablo G. Debenedetti

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18 Scopus citations


Liquid water confined between hydrophobic objects of sufficient size becomes metastable with respect to its vapor at separations smaller than a critical drying distance. Macroscopic thermodynamic arguments predicting this distance have been restricted to the limit of perfectly rigid confining materials. However, no material is perfectly rigid and it is of interest to account for this fact in the thermodynamic analysis. We present a theory that combines the current macroscopic theory with the thermodynamics of elasticity to derive an expression for the critical drying distance for liquids confined between flexible materials. The resulting expression is the sum of the well-known drying distance for perfectly rigid confining materials and a new term that accounts for flexibility. Thermodynamic arguments show that this new term is necessarily positive, meaning that flexibility increases the critical drying distance. To study the expected magnitude and scaling behavior of the flexible term, we consider the specific case of water and present an example of drying between thin square elastic plates that are simply supported along two opposite edges and free at the remaining two. We find that the flexible term can be the same order of magnitude or greater than the rigid solution for materials of biological interest at ambient conditions. In addition, we find that when the rigid solution scales with the characteristic size of the immersed objects, the flexible term is independent of size and vice versa. Thus, the scaling behavior of the overall drying distance will depend on the relative weights of the rigid and flexible contributions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number18C531
JournalJournal of Chemical Physics
Issue number18
StatePublished - Nov 14 2014

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Physics and Astronomy
  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry


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