Roughness-induced wetting

Roland R. Netz, David Andelman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We investigate theoretically the possibility of a wetting transition induced by geometric roughness of a solid substrate for the case where the flat substrate does not show a wetting layer. Our approach makes use of a closed-form expression that relates the interaction between two sinusoidally modulated interfaces to the interaction between two flat interfaces. Within the harmonic approximation, we find that roughness-induced wetting is indeed possible if the substrate roughness, quantified by the substrate surface area, exceeds a certain threshold. In addition, the molecular interactions between the substrate and the wetting substance have to satisfy several conditions. These results are expressed in terms of a lower bound on the wetting potential for a flat substrate in order for roughness-induced wetting to occur. This lower bound has the following properties. A minimum is present at zero or very small separation between the two interfaces, as characteristic for the nonwetting situation in the flat case. Most importantly, the wetting potential needs to have a pronounced maximum at a separation comparable to the amplitude of the substrate roughness. These findings are in agreement with the experimental observation of roughness-induced surface premelting at a glass-ice interface as well as the calculation of the dispersion interaction for the corresponding glass-water-ice system.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)687-700
Number of pages14
JournalPhysical Review E - Statistical Physics, Plasmas, Fluids, and Related Interdisciplinary Topics
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1997


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