Centre d’Élaboration de Matériaux et d’Etudes Structurales (UPR 8011)

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Caroline Mortagne phD defense

PhD thesis entitled : "Étude de la dynamique des liquides par microscopie à sonde locale"

The thesis will be held Friday, October 27th 10:30 a.m. in conference room.




Jury members

  • Christian Frétigny, Directeur de recherche, rapporteur
  • Alessandro Siria, Chargé de recherche, rapporteur
  • Thomas Bickel, Maître de conférences, examinateur
  • Sylvie Cohen-⁠Addad, Professeur des universités, examinatrice
  • Olivier Masbernat, Directeur de recherche, examinateur
  • Michael Benzaquen, Chargé de recherche, membre invité
  • Thierry Ondarcuhu, Directeur de recherche, directeur de thèse
  • Philippe Tordjeman, Professeur des universités, directeur de thèse



The study of the interfacial dynamics of liquids, down to the nanometer-scale, is of primary importance in many domains including biological and industrial phenomena. To address those questions, we study the near-field interaction between a probe and low viscous liquids. The present thesis focuses on two aspects. In the first one, we investigate the liquid interface deformation that occurs when a tip is approached and the resulting ”jump-to- contact” hydrodynamic instability. The second part is more intrusive as it describes the hydrodynamic response of a liquid under the oscillation of a partly-immerse nanocylinder (R ≃ 20 − 100 nm). Our measurements are performed with an Atomic Force Microscope (AFM) in the frequency modulation (FM) mode, which allows to measure the force exerted on the probe along with the conservative and dissipative components of the tip-liquid interaction.

A first set of measurements is performed on several model liquids with an AFM coupled with a high-speed camera via an inverse optical microscope. Before the probe wetting, the force and FM spectroscopy curves highlight the liquid interface deformation on nanometer scales for a large range of probe size (from 10 nm to 30 µm). The fitting of our experimental measurements with the theoretical model recently developed by René Ledesma-Alonso, enables to determinate the critical distance dmin below which the interface is destabilized and irreversibly wets the tip (jump-to-contact). The theoretical model and the FM measurements were found to be in good agreement. The second set of measurements focuses on the partial immersion of cylindrical AFM tips. The FM spectroscopy curves show that a certain quantity of liquid, located in the viscous layer, is carried off with the tip oscillation. The friction exerted on the tip and the liquid mass added to the system, which is directly linked to the velocity-field extension, were measured simultaneously. An analytical model based on the Stokes equation quantitatively reproduces our experimental results. The last set of measurements is performed with cylindrical probes specially designed for the study of nanomeniscus dynamics. Those probes possess annular topographic defects, whose thickness varies between 10 nm and 50 nm. The measurements show that he measured friction coefficient surges as the contact angle is decreased. This behavior is well described by a developed theoretical model based on the lubrication approximation. Furthermore, the dissipation pattern in the vicinity of the contact line and the anchoring properties are also discussed.

The original experiments developed in this thesis demonstrate thus that AFM is a relevant tool for the quantitative study of liquids at the nanoscale. This work paves the way for systematic studies of dissipation processes in confined liquids, and in particular in the vicinity of moving contact lines.