Fuck Yeah Fluid Dynamics

Celebrating the physics of all that flows. Ask a question, submit a post idea or send an email. You can also follow FYFD on Twitter and Google+. FYFD is written by Nicole Sharp, PhD.

Recent Tweets @
Posts tagged "surface tension"

Paint seems to dance and leap when vibrated on a speaker. Propelled upward, the liquid stretches into thin sheets and thicker ligaments until surface tension can no longer hold the the fluid together and droplets erupt from the fountain. Often paints are shear-thinning, non-Newtonian fluids, meaning that their ability to resist deformation decreases as they are deformed. This behavior allows them to flow freely off a brush but then remain without running after application. In the context of vibration, though, shear-thinning properties cause the paint to jump and leap more readily. For more images, see photographer Linden Gledhill’s website. (Photo credit: L. Gledhill; submitted by pinfire)

We often think of raindrops as spherical or tear-shaped, but, in reality, a falling droplet’s shape can be much more complicated. Large drops are likely to break up into smaller droplets before reaching the ground. This process is shown in the collage above. The initially spherical drops on the left are exposed to a continuous horizontal jet of air, similar to the situation they would experience if falling at terminal velocity. The drops first flatten into a pancake, then billow into a shape called a bag. The bags consists of a thin liquid sheet with a thicker rim of fluid around the edge. Like a soap bubble, a bag’s surface sheet ruptures quickly, producing a spray of fine droplets as surface tension pulls the damaged sheet apart. The thicker rim survives slightly longer until the Plateau-Rayleigh instability breaks it into droplets as well. (Image credit: V. Kulkarni and P. Sojka)

In their latest video, Gavin and Dan of The Slow Mo Guys demonstrate what giant bubbles look like in high-speed video from birth to death. Surface tension, which arises from the imbalance of intermolecular forces across the soapy-water/air interface, is the driving force for bubbles. As they move the wand, cylindrical sheets of bubble film form. These bubble tubes undulate in part because of the motion of air around them. In a cylindrical form, surface tension cannot really counteract these undulations. Instead it drives the film toward break-up into multiple spherical bubbles. You can see examples of that early in the video. The second half of the video shows the deaths of these large bubble tubes when they don’t manage to pinch off into bubbles. The soap film tears away from the wand and the destructive front propagates down the tube, tearing the film into fluid ligaments and tiny droplets (most of which are not visible in the video). Instead it looks almost as if a giant eraser is removing the outer bubble tube, which is a pretty awesome effect.  (Video credit: The Slow Mo Guys)

Photographers Cassandra Warner and Jeremy Floto produced the "Clourant" series of high-speed photographs of colorful liquid splashes. The artists took special care to disguise the origin of splashes, making them appear like frozen sculptures. The photos are beautiful examples of making fluid effects and instabilities. Many of them feature thin liquid sheets with thicker rims just developing ligaments. In other spots, surface tension has been wholly overcome by momentum’s effects and what was once ligaments has exploded into a spray of droplets. (Photo credit: C. Warner and J. Floto; submitted by jshoer; via Colossal)

The Marangoni effect is generated by variations in surface tension at an interface. Such variations can be temperature-driven, concentration-driven, or simply due to the mixing between fluids of differing surface tensions as is the case here. The pattern in the image above formed after a dyed water droplet impacted a layer of glycerin. The initial impact of the drop formed an inner circle and outer ring. This image is from 30 seconds or so after impact, after the Marangoni instability has taken over. The higher surface tension of the water pulls the glycerin toward it, resulting in a flower-like pattern. (Photo credit: E. Tan and S. Thoroddsen)

On Earth, it’s easy for the effects of surface tension and capillary action to get masked by gravity’s effects. This makes microgravity experiments, like those performed with drop towers or onboard the ISS, excellent proving grounds for exploring fluid dynamics unhindered by gravity. The video above looks at how colliding jets of liquid water behave in microgravity. At low flow rates, opposed jets form droplets that bounce off one another. Increasing the flow rate first causes the droplets to coalesce and then makes the jets themselves coalesce. Similar effects are seen in obliquely positioned jets. Perhaps the most interesting clip, though, is at the end. It shows two jets separated by a very small angle. Under Earth gravity, the jets bounce off one another before breaking up. (The jets are likely separated by a thin film of air that gets entrained along the water surface.) In microgravity, though, the jets display much greater waviness and break down much quicker. This seems to indicate a significant gravitational effect to the Plateau-Rayleigh instability that governs the jet’s breakup into droplets. (Video credit: F. Sunol and R. Gonzalez-Cinca)

It is common in many industries to use oil as a defoamer to break up existing foams or prevent foams from forming. But with the right surfactants—additives that change the foam’s surface tension—it’s possible to make aqueous foams that are actually stabilized by the presence of oil. This video explores some of the ways that oil can interact with these kinds of foam, beginning with capillary action, which draws the oil up into the junctions between foam films. For more, see Piroird and Lorenceau. (Video credit and submission: K. Piroird)

The microgravity environment of space is an excellent place to investigate fluid properties. In particular, surface tension and capillary action appear more dramatic in space because gravitational effects are not around to overwhelm them. In this animation, astronaut Don Petit injects a jet of air into a large sphere of water. Some of the water’s reaction is similar to what occurs on Earth when a drop falls into a pool; the jet of air creates a cavity in the water, which quickly inverts into an outward-moving jet of water. In this case, the jet is energetic enough to eject a large droplet. Meanwhile, the momentum, or inertia, from the air jet and subsequent ejection causes a series of waves to jostle the water sphere back and forth. Surface tension is strong enough to keep the water sphere intact, and eventually surface tension and viscosity inside the sphere will damp out the oscillations. You can see the video in full here. (Image credit: Don Petit/Science off the Sphere)

Though seemingly instantaneous to the naked eye, the bursting of a soap bubble is fascinating when slowed down. Here it is at about 2200 frames per second. Initially, the bubble is approximately spherical - its shape determined by a balance between surface tension, gravity, and pressure. The prick of a pinpoint disrupts the balance, and surface tension pulls the thin film away from the defect. The liquid sheet of the bubble retracts swiftly into a filament of fluid and a cloud of tiny droplets. (Video credit: soapbubble.dk)

The coalescence of two liquid droplets takes less than the blink of an eye, but it is the result of an intricate interplay between surface tension, viscosity, and inertia. The high-speed video above was filmed at 16000 frames per second, yet the initial coalescence of the silicone oil drops is still nearly instantaneous. At the very instant the drops meet, an infinitesimally small neck is formed between the droplets. Mathematically speaking, the pressure and curvature of the droplets diverge as a result of this tiny contact area. This is an example of a singularity. Surface tension rapidly expands the neck, sending capillary waves rippling along the drops as they become one. (Video credit: S. Nagel et al.; research credit: J. Paulsen)