Research

Pointed Drops

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When water droplets sit on a cold substrate, they freeze into a shape with a pointed tip. At first glance, this behavior seems very odd since surface tension usually acts to prevent such sharp protrusions. The shape is, however, a result of water’s expansion as it freezes. The droplet freezes from the substrate upward, with a concave shape to the solidification front. The angle of the point does not depend on the substrate temperature or the wetting angle between the water and surface. Instead, it turns out that this concave front shape and water’s expansion are the key factors that determine the pointed cusp’s angle, and that the final geometry of the cusp is essentially universal. (Video credit: M. Nauenberg; additional research credit: A. Marin et al.)

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