University of Rochester Professor Chunlei Guo and research assistant Anatoliy Vorobyev found they could carve intricate patterns in silicon with extremely short, high-powered laser bursts, creating nanometer-scale structures that result in liquid climbing to the top of a silicon chip as if it was being sucked through a straw.
Guo said the structures greatly increase the attraction that water molecules feel toward the silicon. The attraction, or hydrophile, of the silicon becomes so great, it overcomes the strong bond water molecules have for other water molecules.
Therefore, he said, instead of sticking to each other, the water molecules climb over one another for a chance to be next to the silicon. That forces the water up the surface at speeds of 3.5 centimeters per second.
Guo said the laser incisions are so precise and non-destructive the surface feels smooth and unaltered to the touch.
He said the achievement could pave the way for novel computer cooling systems that operate much more effectively and efficiently than currently available options.
The research is reported in the online journal Optics Express.