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From Thermal Energy to Kinetic Energy: Droplet Motion Triggered by the Leidenfrost Effect

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Guanqi Wang, Dr Jonathan McDonough, Dr Vladimir Zivkovic



This is the authors' accepted manuscript of an article that has been published in its final definitive form by Wiley-VCH Verlag GmbH & Co. KGaA, 2021.

For re-use rights please refer to the publisher's terms and conditions.


When a liquid is dropped on a surface significantly hotter than the liquid’s boiling point, a vapour film will form beneath the droplet creating an insulation layer sufficient enough to prevent the droplet from rapidly boiling. This phenomenon is known as the Leidenfrost effect, and enables droplets to survive for up to several minutes before fully evaporating. Solids are similarly able to levitate due to sublimation. Furthermore, a liquid droplet placed on a heated flat surface moves randomly, but on a ratcheted substrate, will self-propel and move unidirectionally along the ratchets. Such a system with no other external energy fields applied is designated a Leidenfrost self-propulsion device, first introduced by Linke et al. Given the ability of such an arrangement to effectively convert thermal energy into kinetic energy, numerous studies have subsequently attempted to understand and refine the control of motion of the levitated droplets/solids. This review addresses the fundamental understanding of this ‘heat-to-motion’ mechanism, where the main focus is conversion of thermal energy into kinetic energy through the unique Leidenfrost self-propulsion mechanism. Potential applications of Leidenfrost self-propulsion devices are also discussed, including a brief outlook for the future of this research field.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Wang G, McDonough JR, Zivkovic V, Long T, Wang S

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Advanced Materials Interfaces

Year: 2021

Volume: 8

Issue: 2

Print publication date: 22/01/2021

Online publication date: 18/11/2020

Acceptance date: 21/09/2020

Date deposited: 30/10/2020

ISSN (electronic): 2196-7350

Publisher: Wiley-VCH Verlag GmbH & Co. KGaA


DOI: 10.1002/admi.202001249


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Funder referenceFunder name
China Scholarship Council. Grant Number: 201704910870
City University of Hong Kong