Boiling Without Bubbles

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Water droplets sprinkled on a sufficiently hot frying pan will skitter and skate across the surface on a thin layer of vapor due to the Leidenfrost effect. When a solid object is much warmer than a liquid’s boiling temperature, the surface is surrounded by a vapor cloud until the solid cools to the point that the vapor can no longer be sustained. Then the vapor breaks down in an explosive boiling full of bubbles.  Unless, as researchers have just published in Nature, the solid is treated with a superhydrophobic coating. The water-repellent surface prevents the bubbling, even as the sphere cools. The technique could be used to reduce drag in applications like the channels of a microfluidic device. (Video credit: I. Vakarelski et al.; see also Nature News; submitted by Bobby E)

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