Patterning droplets with durotaxis

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Robert W StyleEric R Dufresne


Numerous cell types have shown a remarkable ability to detect and move along gradients in stiffness of an underlying substrate--a process known as durotaxis. The mechanisms underlying durotaxis are still unresolved, but generally believed to involve active sensing and locomotion. Here, we show that simple liquid droplets also undergo durotaxis. By modulating substrate stiffness, we obtain fine control of droplet position on soft, flat substrates. Unlike other control mechanisms, droplet durotaxis works without imposing chemical, thermal, electrical, or topographical gradients. We show that droplet durotaxis can be used to create large-scale droplet patterns and is potentially useful for many applications, such as microfluidics, thermal control, and microfabrication.


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