Unsteady evolution of slip and drag in surfactant-contaminated superhydrophobic channels

Samuel D. Tomlinson, Frédéric Gibou, Paolo Luzzatto-Fegiz, Fernando Temprano-Coleto, Oliver E. Jensen, Julien R. Landel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Recognising that surfactants can impede the drag reduction resulting from superhydrophobic surfaces (SHSs), we investigate the impact of spatio–temporal fluctuations in surfactant concentration on the drag-reduction properties of SHSs. We model the unsteady transport of soluble surfactant in a channel flow bounded by two SHSs. The flow is laminar, pressure-driven, and the SHSs are periodic in the streamwise and spanwise directions. We assume that the channel length is much longer than the streamwise period, the streamwise period is much longer than the channel height and spanwise period, and bulk diffusion is sufficiently strong for cross-channel concentration gradients to be small. By combining long-wave and homogenisation theories, we derive an unsteady advection– diffusion equation for surfactant-flux transport over the length of the channel, which is coupled to a quasi-steady advection–diffusion equation for surfactant transport over individual plastrons. As diffusion over the length of the channel is typically small, the surfactant flux is governed by a nonlinear wave equation. In the fundamental case of the transport of a bolus of surfactant, we predict its propagation speed and describe its nonlinear evolution via interaction with the SHS. The propagation speed can fall below the average streamwise velocity as the surfactant adsorbs and rigidifies the plastrons. Smaller concentrations of surfactant are advected faster than larger ones, so that wave-steepening effects can lead to shock formation in the surfactant-flux distribution. Our asymptotic results reveal how unsteady surfactant transport can affect the spatio–temporal evolution of the slip velocity, drag reduction and effective slip length in SHS channels.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Fluid Mechanics
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 14 Jun 2024


  • Marangoni convection
  • drag reduction
  • microfluidics


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