The Inside of an Evaporating Drop

[original media no longer available]

Evaporating droplets may not look like much to the naked eye, but they contain complicated flow patterns. The type of pattern observed depends strongly on the contact line, the place where the liquid, solid, and air meet. When the contact line is pinned–kept unchanged–during evaporation, any particulates in the drop get pulled toward the edges as the drop evaporates. This is what leaves the classic coffee ring stain. It is also what is shown in the first clip in the video above. Contrast this with the second clip, in which the contact line is unpinned and varies irregularly as the drop evaporates. In the unpinned drop, particles are drawn inward during evaporation. The flow patterns are very different as well, complicated by swirling that is the result of force imbalances caused by the irregularly receding contact line. (Video credit: H. Kim)

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