Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department

Mechanical Engineering

Major Professor

Nathan B. Crane


contact angle, contact line friction, digital microfluidics, hysteresis


As digital microfluidics has continued to mature since its advent in the early 1980's, an increase in new and novel applications of this technology have been developed. However, even as this technology has become more common place, a consensus on the physics and force models of the motion of the contact line between the fluid, substrate, and ambient has not been reached. This uncertainty along with the dependence of the droplet geometry on the force to cause its motion has directed much of the research at specific geometries and droplet actuation methods.

The goal of this thesis is to help characterize the components of the friction force which opposes droplet motion as a one dimensional system model based upon simple system parameters independent from the actuation method. To this end, the force opposing the motion of a droplet under a thin rectangular glass cover slip was measured for varying cover slip dimensions (widths, length), gap height between the cover slip and substrate, and bulk droplet velocity. The stiffness of the droplet before droplet motion began, the force at which the motion initiated, and the steady-state force opposing the droplet motion were measured. The data was then correlated to hypothesized equations and compared to simple models accounting for the forces due to the contact angle hysteresis, contact line friction, and viscous losses.

It was found that the stiffness, breakaway force, and steady-state force of the droplet could be correlated to with an error standard deviation of 8 %, 14%, and 10 % respectively. Much of the error was due to an unexpected height dependence for the breakaway and steady-state forces and testing error associated with the velocity. The models for the stiffness and breakaway force over predicted the results by 36% and 16% respectively. During testing,


stability issues with the cover slip were observed and simple dye testing was conducted to visualize the droplet flow field.