Line tension and its influence on droplets and particles at surfaces

Bruce M. Law, Sean P. McBride, Jiang Yong Wang, Haeng Sub Wi, Govind Paneru, Santigo Betelu, Baku Ushijima, Youichi Takata, Bret Flanders, Fernando Bresme, Hiroki Matsubara, Takanori Takiue, Makoto Aratono

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

81 Citations (Scopus)


In this review we examine the influence of the line tension τ on droplets and particles at surfaces. The line tension influences the nucleation behavior and contact angle of liquid droplets at both liquid and solid surfaces and alters the attachment energetics of solid particles to liquid surfaces. Many factors, occurring over a wide range of length scales, contribute to the line tension. On atomic scales, atomic rearrangements and reorientations of submolecular components give rise to an atomic line tension contribution τatom (∼1 nN), which depends on the similarity/dissimilarity of the droplet/particle surface composition compared with the surface upon which it resides. At nanometer length scales, an integration over the van der Waals interfacial potential gives rise to a mesoscale contribution |τvdW| ∼ 1–100 pN while, at millimeter length scales, the gravitational potential provides a gravitational contribution τgrav ∼ +1–10 μN. τgrav is always positive, whereas, τvdW can have either sign. Near wetting, for very small contact angle droplets, a negative line tension may give rise to a contact line instability. We examine these and other issues in this review.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-39
Number of pages39
JournalProgress in Surface Science
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Feb 1 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Surfaces, Coatings and Films
  • Surfaces and Interfaces


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