Phenomena

Breaking into Droplets

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A falling column of liquid, like the water from your faucet, will tend to break up into a series of droplets due to the Plateau-Rayleigh instability. This instability is driven by surface tension. Small variations in the radius of the column occur naturally. Where the radius shrinks, the pressure due to surface tension increases, causing liquid to flow away, which shrinks the column’s radius even further. Eventually the column pinches off and breaks into droplets. What’s especially neat is that the size of the final droplets can be predicted based on the column’s initial radius and the wavelength of its disturbances. (Video credit: BYU Splash Lab)

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