Liquid drops attract or repel by the inverted Cheerios effect

Stefan Karpitschka, Anupam Pandey, Luuk A. Lubbers, Joost H. Weijs, Lorenzo Botto, Siddhartha Das, Bruno Andreotti, Jacco H. Snoeijer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

91 Scopus citations


Solid particles floating at a liquid interface exhibit a long-ranged attraction mediated by surface tension. In the absence of bulk elasticity, this is the dominant lateral interaction of mechanical origin. Here, we show that an analogous long-range interaction occurs between adjacent droplets on solid substrates, which crucially relies on a combination of capillarity and bulk elasticity. We experimentally observe the interaction between droplets on soft gels and provide a theoretical framework that quantitatively predicts the interaction force between the droplets. Remarkably, we find that, although on thick substrates the interaction is purely attractive and leads to drop-drop coalescence, for relatively thin substrates a short-range repulsion occurs, which prevents the two drops from coming into direct contact. This versatile interaction is the liquid-on-solid analog of the "Cheerios effect." The effect will strongly influence the condensation and coarsening of drops on soft polymer films, and has potential implications for colloidal assembly and mechanobiology.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)7403-7407
Number of pages5
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number27
StatePublished - Jul 5 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Droplets
  • Elastocapillarity
  • Mechanosensing
  • Soft matter
  • Wetting

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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