Research

Selective Suction

A thin spout of water is drawn up through a layer of oil in the photo on the right. This simple version of the selective withdrawal experiment is illustrated in Figure A, in which a layer of viscous oil floats above a layer of water. A tube introduced in the oil sucks fluid upward. At low flow rates, only the oil will be drawn into the tube, but as the flow rate increases (or the tube’s height above the water decreases), a tiny thread of water will be pulled upward as well. The viscous outer fluid helps suppress instabilities that might break up the inner fluid, and their relative viscosities determine the thickness of the initial spout. In this example, the oil is 195 times more viscous than the water. (Photo credit: I. Cohen et al.)

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