Taming Electrowetting Using Highly Concentrated Aqueous Solutions

Athanasios Papaderakis, Kacper Polus, Pallav Kant, Finn Box, Bruno Etcheverry, Conor Byrne, Martin Quinn, Alex Walton, Anne Juel, Robert Dryfe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Wetting of carbon surfaces is one of the most widespread, yet poorly understood, physical phenomena. Control over wetting properties underpins the operation of aqueous energy storage devices and carbon-based filtration systems. Electrowetting, the variation in contact angle with applied potential, is the most straightforward way of introducing control over wetting. Here, we study electrowetting directly on graphitic surfaces, with the use of aqueous electrolytes, to show that reversible control of wetting can be achieved, and quantitatively understood, using models of the interfacial capacitance. We manifest that the use of highly concentrated aqueous electrolytes induces a fully symmetric and reversible wetting behavior, without degradation of the substrate, within the unprecedented potential window of 2.8 V. We demonstrate where the classical “Young-Lippmann” models apply, and break down, and discuss reasons for the latter, establishing relations among the applied bias, the electrolyte concentration and the resultant contact angle. The approach is extended to electrowetting at the liquid|liquid interface, where a concentrated aqueous electrolyte drives reversibly the electrowetting response of an insulating organic phase with a significantly decreased potential threshold. In summary, this study highlights the beneficial effect of highly concentrated aqueous electrolytes on the electro-wettability of carbon surfaces, being directly related to the performance of carbon-based aqueous energy storage systems, electronics and microfluidics devices.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Physical Chemistry C
Early online date30 Nov 2022
Publication statusPublished - 15 Dec 2022


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