The initiation of contact between liquid and a dry solid is of great fundamental and practical importance. We experimentally probe the dynamics of wetting that occur when an impacting drop first contacts a dry surface. We show that, initially, wetting is mediated by the formation and growth of nanoscale liquid bridges, binding the liquid to the solid across a thin film of air. As the liquid bridge expands, air accumulates and deforms the liquid-air interface, and a capillary wave forms ahead of the advancing wetting front. This capillary wave regularizes the pressure at the advancing wetting front and explains the anomalously low wetting velocities observed. As the liquid viscosity increases, the wetting front velocity decreases; we propose a phenomenological scaling for the observed decrease of the wetting velocity with liquid viscosity.
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