Electric Field Control of Liquid Surfaces for Microfluidics

The control of liquid droplets wetting state on solid surfaces through the application of non-uniform electric fields is known as Dielectrowetting. By modulating the electric field, the wetting behavior of such droplets can be altered and can be employed to create uniform and controlled thin films. Advantages such as low power consumption, fast response time, and the ability to perform complex droplet manipulations with high accuracy and with precise control over droplet movement, spreading, splitting as well as film creation, Dielectrowetting and has applications in various fields, including microfluidics, lab-on-a-chip devices, digital microfluidics, and opto-fluidics.

In previous work we have shown that Dielectrowetting can be used to create thin films and then subsequently wrinkle the surface of the film to create optical devices. We have also shown that it can be used to control the breakup of toroidal liquid films and repeatedly spread and relax a droplet to and from a thin film.

In this PhD you will discover how a static non uniform electric field can create arbitrary surface shapes, wrinkles and beyond, on the surface of a thin film of a dielectric liquid. You will then investigate how that surface can affect the wettability of a droplet of a second immiscible liquid resting on the film. You will then move on the using modulated dynamic electric fields to discover how these can be used to continuously manipulate the immiscible droplet for application on the Microfluidics.

It is expected that the applicant will have a good degree in Engineering or Physics with a good experimental background.   We are particularly interested to hear from applicants with experience in surfaces, fluids and/or droplet manipulation.

The student will be part of the Wetting, Interfacial Sciences and Engineering Group within the Institute for Multiscale Thermofliuds. You will join a vibrant community of PhD students, postdoctoral research associates and academics working in various aspects of surfaces and wetting.

Dr Gary Wells will also be a member of this supervision team. 

Further Information: 

The University of Edinburgh is committed to equality of opportunity for all its staff and students, and promotes a culture of inclusivity. Please see details here: https://www.ed.ac.uk/equality-diversity

Closing Date: 

Thursday, June 27, 2024

Principal Supervisor: 

Assistant Supervisor: 


Minimum entry qualification - an Honours degree at 2:1 or above (or International equivalent) in a relevant science or engineering discipline, possibly supported by an MSc Degree. Further information on English language requirements for EU/Overseas applicants.


Applications are welcomed from self-funded students, or students who are applying for scholarships from the University of Edinburgh or elsewhere.

Further information and other funding options.

Informal Enquiries: