Division of a nanoscale liquid droplet

Division of a liquid nanodroplet : Here you can see a nanoscale video of how a gallium metal droplet between two surfaces can be stretched by slowly moving the surfaces apart. The droplet becomes thinner under tension, and then divides, forming two separate hemispherical droplets.

Tiny nanoscale droplets on surfaces can completely change their tribological behaviour, such as making them sticky (adhesion) or slippy (low friction). This could be good or bad news for new nanotechnologies such as nanomachines and nanofluidics with tiny moving parts. Real-time imaging of nanoliquids and fluid nanomechanics will help us to understand how to manipulate droplets to improve technologies such as surface coatings, lubricants and nanofluidics.

It is difficult to examine in real-time how nanodroplets behave at the nanoscale level due to the sheer difficulty of moving the droplets and imaging them at a scale of a billionth of a metre the same time. This video imaging nanodroplets at the nanoscale has been enabled by building a special nanorobotic device -- a TEM triboprobe -- which can move materials materials around in 3D with nanoscale resolution inside an electron microscope fitted with a digital camera to record the motion on video. The development of the TEM triboprobe has been funded by the UK EPSRC Basic Technology Programme designed to develop fundamental new technologies for future science.

EDUCATION: More information on this video can be obtained by reading 'Friction-formed liquid droplets', A. Lockwood, K Anantheshwara, MS Bobji, BJ Inkson, Nanotechnology, 22, 105703 (2011).