How Coffee Rings Form

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Coffee rings (an ubiquitous feature of academia) are formed by the deposition of particles as the liquid evaporates. When a coffee drop evaporates, capillary action draws the coffee particles toward the edges of the drop, where they congregate into a ring. Research now suggests that this is due to the spherical nature of the particles. Ellipsoidal particles, in contrast, clump together and result in a uniform stain once their carrier liquid evaporates. The effect seems to be due to the particles’ effects on surface tension; the ellipsoidal particles deform the surface of the droplet as it evaporates such that they are not pulled to the edges. Adding a surfactant, like soap, that decreases surface tension caused the ellipsoidal particles to form rings just as the spherical particles do. (submitted by Neil K) #

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