Water splattered onto a a hot skillet will skitter and skip across the surface on a thin layer of vapor due to the Leidenfrost effect. The partial vaporization of the droplet provides a low-friction cushion for the droplet to glide on and acts as an insulating layer that delays the vaporization of the rest of the droplet. Modernist Cuisine shows us how serene this common and sometimes explosive effect looks at 3,000 frames per second. (On the topic of cooking, you can use the Leidenfrost effect to see if your skillet is hot enough when making pancakes. If a few droplets of water skitter across the pan before sizzling away, then your pan is ready for batter!) (Video credit: Modernist Cuisine; submitted by Eban B.)
This combined video shows the fall of a heated centimeter-sized steel sphere through water. From left to right, the sphere is at 25 degrees C (left), 110 degrees C (middle), and 180 degrees C, demonstrating how the Leidenfrost effect—which vaporizes the water in immediate contact with the sphere—can substantially reduce the drag on a submerged object. In the middle video, the vaporization of the water around the sphere is sporadic and incomplete, only slightly reducing the sphere’s drag relative to the room temperature case. The much hotter sphere on the right, however, has a complete layer of vapor surrounding it, allowing it to travel through a gas rather than the denser liquid. (Video credit: I. Vakarelski and S. Thoroddsen; from a review by D. Quere)
At your next party, you can break the bottom of a glass bottle with the palm of your hand and the power of fluid dynamics. As shown in the video above, striking the mouth of the bottle accelerates fluid at the bottom, lowering the local pressure below the vapor pressure and causing the formation of cavitation bubbles. When these bubbles collapse, they form very high temperatures and pressures for an instant, and it is this which can break the glass. (Video credit: J. Daily et al., BYU Splash Lab)
The Leidenfrost effect occurs when a liquid encounters a solid object much hotter than the liquid’s boiling point, like when water skitters on a hot griddle or someone plunges a hand in liquid nitrogen. A thin layer of vapor forms between the liquid and the solid, thereby (briefly) insulating the remaining liquid. The Leidenfrost effect can be static—like a droplet sitting on a pan—or dynamic, like the video above in which a droplet impacts the hot object. The video shows both a top and a side view of a droplet striking a plate that is over five times hotter than the liquid’s boiling point. On impact, the droplet spreads and flattens, and a spray of even tinier droplets is ejected before rebound. (Video credit: T. Tran and D. Lohse, from a review by D. Quere)
When a liquid impacts a solid heated well above the liquid’s boiling point, droplets can form, levitating on a thin film of vapor that helps insulate them from the heat of the solid. This is known as the Leidenfrost effect. Here a very large Leidenfrost droplet is shown from the side in high-speed. A vapor chimney forms beneath the drop, causing the dome in the liquid. When the dome bursts, the droplet momentarily forms a torus before closing. The resulting oscillatory waves in the droplet are spectacular. The same behavior can be viewed from above in this video. (Video credit: D. Soto and R. Thevenin; from an upcoming review by D. Quere)
One of the tried and true cooking tips my mother gave me when I was younger was to test the temperature of my griddle before making pancakes by splashing a few drops of water on it. If it was hot enough that the water skittered across the surface before evaporating, then it was ready. Aside from being a way to make great pancakes, this tip demonstrates an everyday application of the Leidenfrost effect. When the surface of the pan is significantly higher than the boiling point of the water, the part of the water drop that hits the pan is vaporized, creating a thin layer of water vapor on which the rest of the droplet rests. The vapor serves as an insulator, protecting the rest of the water drop from the heat of the pan, as well as a lubricant, allowing the drop slip and slide easily across the surface. The same effect lets the brave plunge a hand into liquid nitrogen without damage, but they have to be quick, otherwise their hand will cool to the point that the liquid nitrogen contacts it without a protective layer of nitrogen. (In that case, a nasty case of frostbite may be the least of one’s worries. We do NOT recommend trying this one at home.)
This August 25th satellite image shows Hurricane Irene over the Bahamas and Florida. Hurricanes are fueled largely by the release of heat as warm water vapor in the rising air condenses. The hurricane requires a body of warm water to sustain the process, which is why hurricanes weaken drastically after they make landfall. Over open water, the heat released by condensation fuels higher winds, which lowers the pressure at the center of the system and helps increase the rate of evaporation near the ocean surface, providing additional warm vapor for future condensation. See more photos of Irene from space, along with video from the ISS. #
Cavitation occurs in moving liquids when the local pressure—in this case, at the tip of the propeller—drops below the vapor pressure. The fast-moving fluid transitions to a gas phase, creating a tip vortex of water vapor even though the propeller is completely submerged.
Gas bubbles can form in a flowing liquid in areas where the pressure drops below its vapor pressure. This process, called cavitation, is a major problem for engineers because the collapse of the bubbles upon entering a high pressure area can damage metal surfaces. Shown here is cavitation on a fully submerged boat propeller.
The Leidenfrost effect occurs when a liquid encounters a surface with a temperature much higher than its boiling point. Some of the liquid is instantly vaporized and then a droplet will skate across the surface on that vapor. This video shows the process at 3000 frames per second.