Phenomena

Coalescence Cascade

The simple coalescence of a drop with a pool is more complicated than the human eye can capture. Fortunately, we have high-speed cameras. Here a droplet coalesces by what is known as the coalescence cascade. Because it has been dropped with very little momentum, the droplet will initially bounce, then seem to settle like a bead on the surface. A tiny film of air separates the drop and the pool at this point. When that air drains away, the drop contacts the pool and part–but not all!–of it coalesces. Surface tension snaps the remainder into a smaller droplet which follows the same pattern: bounce, settle, drain, partially coalesce. This continues until the remaining droplet is so small that it can be coalesced completely. (Image credit: Laboratory of Porous Media and Thermophysical Properties, source video)

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