A floating droplet


How can droplets “levitate” on liquid surfaces?


Visualization of vortices in a drop of silicone oil sitting on a warm bath. The temperature difference generates a recirculating flow that is visualized by shining a green laser light on fluorescent particles that are added as passive tracers within the drop.
Visualization of vortices in a drop of silicone oil sitting on a warm bath. The temperature difference generates a recirculating flow that is visualized by shining a green laser light on fluorescent particles that are added as passive tracers within the drop.
Michela Geri / MIT

A drop or two of cold cream in hot coffee can go a long way toward improving one’s morning. But what if the two liquids didn’t mix?

MIT scientists have now explained why under certain conditions a droplet of liquid should not coalesce with the liquid surface below – using silicone oil sitting on a warm bath. If the droplet is very cold, and the bath sufficiently hot, then the droplet should “levitate” on the bath’s surface, as a result of the flows induced by the temperature difference.

The team’s results, published in the Journal of Fluid Mechanics, offer a detailed, mathematical understanding of drop coalescence, which can be observed in everday phenomena, from milk poured in coffee to raindrops skittering across puddles, and sprays created in surf zones.

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  1. https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/journal-of-fluid-mechanics/article/thermal-delay-of-drop-coalescence/CB55985D6ADC2251BA5EA94C8021C18F
  2. https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/journal-of-fluid-mechanics/article/thermal-delay-of-drop-coalescence/CB55985D6ADC2251BA5EA94C8021C18F
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